Kiwis dominant but "we are getting closer", says Manenti

Womens - Sydney
by Iain Payten

Aussie coach John Manenti joked world series rivals might have to team up and send out 14 players against New Zealanders after the Kiwis continued their dominance with a Sydney 7s title.

The Black Ferns made the most of a first yellow card for Australia in the final, and in thumping their rivals 34-10 continued a remarkable 48-game unbeaten streak.

Since losing the Sydney7s final a year ago, the mighty New Zealand girls have not tasted defeat; and collected a World Cup, Commonwealth Games gold and five straight World Series titles.

Finishing runners-up was a progression of sorts for the Australians, who finished fifth in Colorado and third in Dubai, but the gap between New Zealand and the rest of the world is as wide as its ever been.

Manenti commended his young side for their effort and growth, in the context of the season.

But the Aussie coach turned to black humour when asked if he would do work on his team’s psychology to ensure the Kiwis’ year-long run didn’t turn into a mental block as they head towards the Olympics. 

"Maybe all the teams we can chip in together and get a sports psych for the whole World Series?” Manenti joked.

"Then we’d all try and help each other out. Maybe they have to play 14 of us, I don’t know.

"Look they’re a very good team. But we can only worry about us and try and get better,

"I don’t think there are too many scars there at the moment. 

"That’s the first time we had played them in a little while so we were really looking forward to benchmarking ourselves. Clearly we still have some work to do but they’re a young team and I am proud of how they’re travelling.

"We have always had the policy of we win or we learn, so hopefully we learn.”

The Australian side were in the contest in the first half but a yellow card to skipper Sharni Williams midway through would prove to be fatal.

The Kiwis ran in two tries in Williams’ absence and the fatigue of a tough six-game camping then crashed down hard on Aussies, who fell off tackles and conceded another four tries.

"We were in the fight, we were in the contest but you don’t want to be chasing the game by too much and unfortunately the yellow card …. once you start chasing them and once you’re behind them, they’re a good outfit and they don’t give you another chance,” Manenti said.

The cool-headed absence of Charlotte Caslick, Emilee Cherry and Shannon Parry - and the physicality of departed Chloe Dalton - was missed in Sydney.

But Manenti and Williams said the emergence of a young breed, including Emma Sykes, Lily Dick and Sariah Paki was enough to give confidence about the 18 months ahead before Tokyo.

Emma Sykes was one of the Aussie standouts in Sydney. Photo: Walmsley“At the end of the day, I am very happy with the progress the young girls are showing,” Manenti said.

"We are not that far away.”

Though she is an Olympic gold medallist and world champion, Williams said she had plenty of experience with pain and loss in her career, and she would pass that on to help the new breed.

"That’s probably the first final we have made,” Williams said. 

"We have some young girls who are growing and I am so damn proud of them this weekend. The growth that we have got out of this tournament has been phenomenal. I would say we are nipping at their heels but yes, they are above us at the moment.

"I would say I am successful and I know how to win but I wouldn’t say I have been around winning all the time. I have definitely lost a lot of big games as well and I know how hard that is for a young player to feel that way. It is about drawing on that feeling.

"Over the next 18 months, you watch out, these girls are really going to grow.”