WALSH: Australian Men's Sevens looking ahead to Tokyo 2021

Mens -Tokyo Olympics
by Tim Walsh

The Australian Men’s Sevens was on the rise when the Sevens World Series was suspended due to COVID-19.

Over the last four tournaments we finished in the top four three times and we were peaking heading into what would have been a massive 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

We had a strong North American tour with a second-place finish in Vancouver and fourth in Los Angeles, coupled with a bronze medal in Hamilton to leave us in fourth place.

There is no doubt COVID-19 has changed the nature of our sport in the short to medium term, but in Sevens, we are taught to be adaptive, positive and embrace change. With the Olympics being postponed we have another year to be better players and I have another year to be a better a coach.

We must be creative for the challenges of preparing for an Olympic Games in 2021 with a completely different road map to what we are used to.

There have been obstacles the Sevens department has had to manage, but the support coming through from the Australian Institute of Sport with extra funding is a shot in the arm for what we have been doing across both programs and will certainly help us to refocus for the next 12 months.

Having a change of leadership with Nick Malouf taking on the captaincy reins and Lewis Holland moving into vice-captain created an opportunity for both players. Lewis has been flourishing in the last few tournaments, playing some of his best Rugby he has been playing for a long time. Nick has grown into a different leadership role which the playing group really reacted well with.

We feel that we had the style of play and the right people to deliver us to the Olympics and a way that will make us better for 2021.

Our current phase is about mental health, staying fit and keeping our purpose. Fit, strong and healthy!

We’re fortunate to have been able to release some of our players to Vodafone Super Rugby AU and Sydney’s Shute Shield competition.

I know these guys will relish having a crack at XVs and representing their diverse Sevens skillsets in those competitions. It’ll be an eye opener for Shute Shield fans to see these guys in action; a player like Maurice Longbottom who is an unknown quantity in XVs has the potential to turn games on its head with his ability to break through the line and create space.

Players like Lachie Miller (Randwick) and Josh Coward (West Harbour) are unknown forces in the Shute Shield, which will be exciting for fans and interesting for their opposition to figure them out.

Between now and November the guys are focusing on being great Rugby players and representing Sevens in the XVs arena whilst making sure they are improving our Sevens specific skills; all in preparation for a return to the world stage and the Olympics in 2021.

In the background we will continue to get the program in a healthy position for when we can switch back to playing International Sevens. Our own initiative and creativity is what we will need harness to have the best preparation.

Having New Zealand and Fiji on our doorstep in a potential future bubble to be able to play Sevens down the track will help us immensely in our hunt for Olympic Gold.

It’s going to be a challenge but it’s one that we are really looking forward to as we continue our hunt for Tokyo 2021.