The 2018 Aon Uni 7s series kicks off in Tasmania on Saturday.
RUGBY.com.au has taken a look across the squads ahead of kick-off. Who should you be keeping an eye on?
All five rounds of the Uni7s will be broadcast LIVE and FREE on RUGBY.com.au, kicking off with the Tasmania leg on Saturday August 26.
Last year: Winners
There’s plenty of turnover in the squad for 2018, with 15 new faces in the team. Some big contributors including Rikki Watego and Lily Dick (Griffith) are missing from the list this year but the Queenslanders have added some promise with additions including new scholarship student and Youth 7s star Marioulla Belessis.
Key for 2018: Depth
UQ’s depth will be a major factor in the 2018 series. While Aussie Sevens star Emilee Cherry was a standout last year, they had plenty of other rising stars underpinning her performances. With the end of the series overlapping with a new World Series leg in Denver teams will have less access to their national squad players.
One to watch: Shenae Ciesiolka
A former Aussie Sevens squad member, 21-year-old Ciesiolka still has a big future ahead of her. Ciesiolka burst onto the World Series scene but missed the cut as the squad began to be whittled down in recent seasons. Look out for others with international experience - UQ has Holland reps Jannicke lJdens, Bodil van Wijnbergen and Plevni Kievit.
Last year: Second
Bond has kept a relatively stable squad in 2018 with many of their regulars from the inaugural series sticking with the Gold Coast uni. Former Aussie Sevens player Brooke Walker is the most high-profile absentee. Walker has been playing VFLW for Carlton this season, alongside long-time teammate Chloe Dalton. Rising Aussie star Lauren Brown will come into the team after captaining Griffith last year.
Key for 2018: Stability
The stability may be their biggest strength. Last year’s series winners UQ have had a high turnover and that could open up an opportunity for their closest rivals.
One to watch: Katie Grimmett
Grimmett is one of the new faces in the Bond Uni squad. The teenager comes from Woodenbong in northern NSW and is a raw talent when it comes to rugby. Watch this space.
Last year: Third
Rio Olympian Chloe Dalton is the biggest loss for Macquarie. Dalton walked away from the Sevens squad earlier this year and is pursuing a shot at AFLW with Carlton. The core of their squad is relatively stable.
Key for 2018: Staying ahead of the competition
Macquarie will have more competition in the NSW ranks this season with Sydney Uni joining the competition and the development of their key players will be crucial. A growing Sydney women’s Sevens competition has boosted the talent base and the Rays will have benefited from that. With one series already under their belt, the Rays will need last year’s rookies to lay the foundation for success this year.
One to watch: Emily Chancellor
Chancellor is quickly becoming a poster child for the value of the Uni 7s. An impressive season last year put her on the radar of XVs and Sevens. Chancellor made her Wallaroos debut against the Black Ferns in Sydney and her added experience on a big stage will be invaluable
Last year: Fourth
Last year’s skipper Lauren Brown has been elevated into the Aussie squad and with that has come a move to Queensland rivals UQ. Lily Dick’s impressive debut season with UQ put her on the Aussie Sevens and she will be in the Griffith ranks this year.
Key for 2018: Going to the next level
Griffith’s star power has grown significantly this year and that will make them one of the teams to watch. Their budding relationship with Queensland XVs side Sunnybank gives them access to some of the best local talent and their next challenge is to make the most of it.
One to watch: Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea
Fakaosilea was one of Queensland’s best in the Super W this year and the teenager is widely tipped to be one of the next stars of women’s rugby. She isn’t quite eligible to play for Australia yet but a good showing in the Uni 7s will only cement her standing among the next generation.
University of Canberra
Last year: Fifth
UC haven’t been afraid to bring in some different faces this season. Wallaroos veteran Louise Burrows was a surprise inclusion in the squad as they look to bulk up in the forwards. USA international Abby Gustaitis returns for another year as does Yasmin Meakes whose performances earned her a spot on the Aussie Sevens World Series circuit.
Key for 2018: Consistency
UC sprung some surprises in the 2017 Uni7s series and showed they could match it with the top teams. The most important thing for this side in 2018 is balancing some exciting X Factor with balance across the park. One-off upsets won’t be enough to climb up the ladder.
One to watch: Georgia O’Neill
O’Neill recently made her Test debut with the Wallaroos and she stepped up on that arena with ease. The Canberrans are looking for more grunt this season and O’Neill will help on both sides of the ball.
The University of Adelaide
Last year: Sixth
Adelaide Uni will have a largely similar squad for the second Uni7s. The monstrous Eva Karpani will be back once again along with a host of last year’s rookies.
Key for 2018: Development
Adelaide is one of the teams in the Uni 7s where talent development is as critical as where they finish on the ladder. The 2017 debutants have a series under their belts now and will know what to expect. They will have the added bonus of a home tournament this year, which is sure to add some extra motivation for the side.
One to watch: Mahalia Murphy
She’s not exactly a breakout star but Mahalia Murphy comes into this Uni7s with a point to prove. Murphy has been focusing on XVs after being cut from the full-time Sevens program. She starred at fullback for the Wallaroos when they took on the Black Ferns and looks to be coming into some of hre best rugby.
University of Tasmania
Last year: Seventh
UTas coach Luke Burgess has kept much of his squad the same as 2017 as he looks to build a long-term talent program in the state. USA internationals Sydnee Watanabe and Kiki Morgan are among those back on the apple isle after the first competition.
Key for 2018: Start well
UTas were one of the improvers through the 2017 series after a slow start. They’re still a relative minnow of the competition but a strong start in their home tournament this weekend would put the rest of the teams on notice.
One to watch: Lauryn Cooper
Lauryn Cooper is the UTas captain this year and she will need to set the tone for the rest of the side from the get go. Cooper was one of those among the team that led the improvement in 2017 and her teammates will feed off that again this year.
University of New England
Last year: Eighth
Many of UNE’s top line regulars are in their squad again this season. Former Youth Commonwealth Games gold medallist Kennedy Cherrington is a major absentee from their lineup and they are yet to confirm their marquee players.
Key for 2018: Moving on up
Similarly to Adelaide Uni, UNE showed some positive signs in 2017 but simply didn’t do it often enough. A greater spread of reliance across their squad will be critical for them to take the next step.
One to watch: Inge Visser
Dutch international Inge Visser could be a surprise packet for UNE in this series. Visser was a strong contributor to NSW’s Super W side this year and could will bring some different experience into the UNE fold.
University of Melbourne
Last year: N/A
Key for 2018: Wait and see
Melbourne Uni is one of the big mysteries of 2018. With little history as a team when it comes to women’s XVs in AFL-dominated Victoria, it’s hard to say exactly where this group will sit. Success will be a matter of whether the side can gel quickly against some established combinations.
One to watch: Reni Hicks
The University of Melbourne has some cross-code stars and AFLW player Reni Hicks is one. Hicks was picked up by Carlton in the 2017 AFLW draft and played four matches for the Blues this season. She is a defender in AFL and should bring some handy skills across with her.
University of Sydney
Last year: N/A
Key for 2018: Living up to reputations
Sydney Uni is a powerhouse in the Sydney women’s XVs competition and they will have plenty of expectations on them in this series. A host of familiar faces will be in their inaugural squad and it will be up to them to keep their strong rugby history going in a competitive series.
One to watch Jemima McCalman
Jemima McCalman was in the Aussie Uni Sevens side that won a silver in Namibia earlier this year. As one of plenty of new faces that will be blooded in the Sydney Uni side, McCalman is one to keep an eye on.