Gen Next title winners to be called into Aussie team for Dubai: Manenti

by Sarah Friend

The next generation of Aussie sevens stars is just what the doctor ordered.

For the last month, Australian Women’s Sevens coach John Manenti has been faced with a growing - and unwelcome - casualty ward of injured troops, ahead of the the 2018-19 HSBC World Sevens Series in three weeks.

But a brave effort from a young, inexperienced development side at the Oceania Sevens Championship at the weekend has lifted a weight off Manenti's shoulders.

The young Aussie side, made up largely of uncontracted players who stood out in the Aon Uni 7s series, shocked many by beating New Zealand in the final to be crowned champions.

Including Manenti. Sort of.

“I’m sort of surprised but I’m not surprised," he said.

"These are all girls that stood out through Aon, some of which are already in our program. But it was outstanding. They showed a lot of courage in the final.”

With Manenti back in Australia, former Aussie captain James Stannard coached the side after joining the staff as an assistant in June.

After only a few days of getting to know each other, the Aussie women made a clean sweep on day one of competition overcoming Nauru, Samoa and PNG, and then beat Fiji and New Zealand on day two in the finals.

The team showed tremendous grit in wet and difficult conditions.

“To get through day one without a point getting scored against them, and getting one hundred odd points and beating Fiji which was nearly a World Series strength team showed a lot of character,”Manenti said.

“It was great for them to have that experience and great for them to win so I’m really proud of them.”

With only three weeks remaining till Dubai, Manenti has turned his focus to picking a side and he fully expects to see some of the Oceania team take a step up into World Series calculations.

“There’s up to five girls that told me they’re ready to play the World Series so we’re quite excited by that," he said.

"It’s going to be a challenge for me to work out which ones they are. With a couple injuries in our current group there’s a few that will find themselves going to Dubai.”

Hagiga Mosby, Jakiya Whitfield, Laura Waldie, Madison Higgins-Ashby and Kennedy Cherrington all showed they can handle the next level with impressive tournaments.

Manenti says Shannon Parry has definitely been ruled out, and Emma Tonegato, Demi Hayes and Alicia Quirk are also unlikely.

Emilee Cherry also missed the last tournament with injury.

Australia will be looking to finish better than fifth at Dubai after a disappointing finish in Colorado.

But Manenti says the playing group is in good spirits coming off a win at Oceania and it couldn’t have come at a more ideal time.

“The reality is we’ve been a bit flat so it’s a lovely shot in the arm," he said.

"We only lost one game on Colorado so we’re not a million miles away.”