Sevens receive timely funding boost

International
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Australia's Sevens teams have received a timely boost with the announcement of $2.2 million in AIS funding.

The one-off grant will give the programs some critical certainty in a year where their program has been all but wiped out.

With the Tokyo Olympics postponed and the remainder of the Sevens World Series cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus

Australia's women's program is in a stronger position than the men, off the back of their 2016 Rio gold medal, and coach John Manenti recently confirmed the program would remain centralised and full-time in 2021.

This funding gives the men's program especially the ability to continue with much greater security.

Most of Australia's players were under a cloud with their contracts expiring on August 30 and a recent revised player pay deal only applying to Super Rugby AU players, with still no World Series events being played.

A number of players have departed both squads, while Ben O'Donnell recently inked a deal with Ireland's Connacht.

Rugby AU CEO Rob Clarke said the funding was an endorsement of the teams' Olympic prospects.

"On behalf of Rugby Australia and both of our Sevens teams, we thank the Australian Institute of Sport for their increased support for our programs," he said.

“This increase is a tick of approval for our teams and the progress they had made before the World Series was suspended with our Australian Women’s Sevens pressing for another title and our Men’s team were finishing the season with a wet sail as they sat in fourth position with four rounds to go. 

“This extra funding will allow for more security and greater planning ahead the Tokyo Olympic Games and as we move forward in a new Sevens landscape."

Australian Sports Commission chair John Wylie said Sevens was an important area to fund going into the Tokyo games.

“While all our sport partners continue to weather the challenges of COVID-19, we are really pleased at the AIS to be able to provide these additional measures to support Rugby Australia’s Sevens programs as they head towards Tokyo. 

“Thousands of Australians and in particular, girls, were inspired by the feats of our gold medallists in Rio, and we’d love to see the women’s team defend that gold, and get the men onto the podium as well."

The Tokyo Olympics were scheduled to be starting next week but have been pushed back a year to begin on July 23.

Both Australia's men and women are considered strong medal chances, with the women sitting in second and the men in fourth on the World Series ladder after the most recent events.