Parry and Williams a yin and yang pairing

Womens - Sydney
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Shannon Parry and Sharni Wiliams are somewhat of a yin and yang pairing.

The Australian Sevens co-captains complement each other - Parry, a qualified school teacher, is more likely to be the one who addresses the group, while mechanic Williams is more of a one-on-one mentor, admittedly a leader by action.

It’s a combination that has paid off for the champion Sevens team, who have Olympic gold medals and a World Series title to their names.

“I like smaller groups to be able to chat and get my point across and I'm a doer,” Williams said.

“I lead by example where Shannon is able to talk a lot better in bigger groups and she's the mastermind of being able to speak to people and be able to use her teacher's knowledge as she just spoke about with knowing when to push buttons and when not to, that sort of thing.”

Launching the results of a recent HSBC Women in Sport survey that overwhelmingly showed the positive impact that team sports have on women in the work place, Parry and Williams both said their sport and life approaches had fed off one another.

Ninety-five percent of women surveryed said teamwork on-field benefited them in their professional lives.

Respondents said a number of traits learned in sport could be transferred off the field, including improvement in professional confidence (56%), mental strength (54%), goal setting (53%), ambition (46%), time management (46%) and discipline (45%).

“I think there's obviously a direct correlation between what you can gain from sport and then what you can take to your professional career or aspirations as well,” Parry said.

“For me, being a school teacher, interacting with the kids is definitely led me in step to be able to interact with my teammates and then also being able to read your teammates and take that back to the classroom and just know when someone's not quite right or there's something going on.

"I think that's something I've definitely been able to relate to the football setting and vice versa and just the way you communicate with people.

“You know what will push someone's buttons and then you know when to pull the throttle back as well.

As they head into their second Sydney 7s, the pair are different leaders to this time 12 months ago, after a roller coaster 2016-17 season.

Australia kicked off their 2017-18 World Series with a breathtaking Dubai tournament and Parry said they had gained plenty from the lessons of the previous series.

“Off the back of Rio it was obviously expected that you're going to win everything and the reality of sport is you win some, you lose some but at the end of the day you're always going to learn,” she said.

“The 16-17 season was about us learning and finding more about ourselves and I think this year is exciting.”

Williams said she hoped the challenges of last season would be good for the team longer-term.

“It's just sport as well - you're on a roller coaster and it's part of life as well,” she said.

“You can't be at the top the whole time and that climb is extremely hard but it brings you closer together.”

The pair may be among the last of their peer group to fully appreciate the workplace and sport transfer, at least simultaneously, as the women’s game begins to grow into the professional realm.

Though the rise of AFLW and WBBL particularly has taken many headlines in the past two years, rugby was the first football code to have a fully professional women’s team, with the Sevens.

That the tag is not generally associated with rugby in the public domain, doesn’t worry the pair, who have seen both sides of the coin, with the Sevens and XVs versions of the game.

“I say to Sharni all the time, 'Imagine if we'd picked up rugby at 12 years of age, not at 18,' How good we would be,” Parry said.

“I remember the first year we played at Sydney, some of the people, because we sat in the crowd after, didn't even know we could play rugby and they were like 'you girls are actually good'. We were like, 'yeah, we think we're going alright'.

“To now have a stop here to play alongside the men, finals day with the men's as well, finals day on the Sunday.

“It's going to be a fantastic atmosphere and I think for us we just can't wait to showcase the hard work we've been putting in and to play on home soil on that pitch on Allianz is going to be really exciting.”

The Sydney 7s kicks off on Friday January 26, running until Sunday January 28. Buy tickets here.