Cherry on track for Sydney 7s return

Womens - Hamilton
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australian Sevens superstar Emilee Cherry is targeting a Sydney 7s return after more than a year out of action.

Cherry has not played in more than a year after giving birth to her first daughter, Alice, in June 2019.

The former World Rugby Sevens player of the Year has been back in full training withe the Aussie women since they returned from their Christmas break and is expected to be back in the squad for the Australian World Series leg.

“She’s going well, tracking well for Sydney, as long as she gets through the training,” he said.

“Since we returned this year, she’s been fully integrated so as long as she gets through the next couple of weeks of training, she’ll be on track.”

Manenti and his staff never put a hard deadline on Cherry’s return to play, preferring to take a patient approach with the 27-year-old as she worked her way back into training.

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While Manenti expects Cherry will take a little time to find her feet in the World Series after her long absence, he is confident the fierce competitor will be flying by the time Tokyo 2020 comes around in July.

“There’s also a few unknowns, she’s still got to look after the bub and that everything’s travelling well there so it’s sometimes a day by day thing,” he said.

"In her fitness testing when we came back after the break she was quite outstanding and I don’t doubt with a bit of time...she’ll be back to her best.

“It’s not going to be back to her best day one, she’s just had a baby, but she’s,so competitive and trains so hard and obviously such an incredible player so I don’t doubt she’ll be back to her best by Tokyo.

“Initially we thought, ideally she’d be ready for Dubai and Cape Town but it just worked out that it was just too soon for her.

“We haven’t really had a time frame on it but just want her playing enough football pre-Olympics so that she’s firing on all cylinders by then.”

Manenti rates Cherry’s long-time teammate Charlotte Caslick a ‘50-50’ chance of returning in Sydney after a hamstring injury forced her out of the Dubai-Cape Town tournaments.

“Wedon’t want to push her in back to back tournaments,”he said.

“If Hamilton was the Olympics we might play her but we’d probably be silly to push her in back-to-back tournaments now.”

Evania Pelite, one of the side’s most consistent players in recent seasons, will not feature in the Australasian legs as she works to recover from plantar fasciitis.

The women face the USA, Brazil and Russia in their Hamilton pool and face a must-win scenario in a new more cut-throat tournament format.

With the Hamilton and Sydney tournaments holding men’s and women’s tournaments over just two days, World Rugby made the decision to remove Cup quarter-finals, meaning topping your pool becomes a necessity.

While there are only three pools in the women’s competition, meaning one runner-up will progress along with pool winners, the equation will be simple if not easy for the Aussie women, Manenti said.

“It just means you have to try and win your pool otherwise you’re in the hands of the gods,” he said.

“We’ve got USA, Russia and Brazil in Hamilton - Brazil are an improving side...Russia are always a great threat and the Americans have given us plenty of heartache over the past 18 months.

There’s only one way to guarantee going to the semi-finals and that’s to top your pool.”

The Hamilton Sevens kicks off on January 24 with the Sydney 7s on Saturday February 1.