‘Pitty’ and ‘Iconic’ against the world: Olympics, World Cup on Levi’s mind in quest for superstar status

Wed, Nov 22, 2023, 10:13 PM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
The Levi sisters are ready to become the faces of Australian Rugby. Photo: Getty Images
The Levi sisters are ready to become the faces of Australian Rugby. Photo: Getty Images

Maddison and Teagan Levi are looking to become the faces of Australian Rugby as they set themselves up long-term in the game. The two-year extension keeps them in Rugby for the foreseeable future and shuts down rival codes circling the two stars.

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At just 21 and 20, it positions them as the future of the game, a moniker they embrace.

"You look at the NRLW girls being household names and the beauty of that is they get to play 5.30 pm every night, prime time in front of kids that are sitting down to watch,” Maddison said.

"So I think us being the face and growing up playing multiple codes will hopefully help promote rugby because we have some of the best athletes and our squad keeps getting better and better…I think we are some of the best female athletes in Australia so hopefully, we can lead the way and produce such a big market for kids to grow up with. 

"We’ve already seen a shift from when the girls won Rio to when we won Comm Games (in 2022), of not only younger girls but younger males actually looking up and wanting to play sevens.

"Hopefully we can be at the forefront of that charge and lead the way."

The sisters have nearly won it all, with an elusive Olympic gold the target for this season.

Having been inspired by Rio, Teagan was eager to create her own memories, with the squad bonded by past disappointments.

“Tokyo wasn’t the best comp so riding the highs and lows with the team, you go through so many emotions and it’s like a rollercoaster so I think that’s what draws us together,” she explained.

“We’ve been on complete polar spectrums and just riding those highs and lows with each other is what really draws us together. We know we go through a lot of challenging days and the limits so go to each day. “I think doing that with each other and knowing that we can embrace the darkness together actually brings us together.”

Maddison broke into the squad right before the Tokyo Games, where the team crashed out in the quarter-finals. She attended the 2023 Rugby World Cup Final live, the day before the World Rugby Awards, and was eager for the Australians to experience that same atmosphere if they make the gold medal match in July.

“Being at the lows of Tokyo, it’s pretty devastating. I came in a month out (from the Olympics) and still seeing the work ethic of (the) girls brought inspired me to become the athlete I am so it’s pretty heartbreaking," she said. “Sometimes it’s hard to have that loss but you learn a lot from it…we are such a young team so I think those experiences and using those leanings will actually grow our team to become better and we’ve got our sights on the gold medal in Paris.

“The (World Cup Final) atmosphere was insane…I came back to the girls and said ‘Listen, I want to be in that gold medal match because it’s so insane’. 

“They’ve already sold out most of the Rugby Sevens tickets for the Olympics so for us to be able to produce a crowd like that and play in front of fans all over the world, it’s definitely a pinnacle and I think with the team that we have we can definitely be there in that gold medal match.”

The Levis admit a 15s crossover and experiencing their own World Cup is appealing as the Wallaroos program goes from strength to strength ahead of the 2025 World Cup in England.

“Yeah definitely (interested in the 2025 World Cup), Sevens is our primary focus at the moment but to help grow the women’s game and transfer (would be great),” Maddison said.

“Sharni (Smale) and BB (Bienne Terita) killed it last year and they’ll want to win a World Cup for 15s for Rugby Australia so it’s definitely on the cards. “With the contract extension, it’d be pretty exciting to help grow 15s and Sevens and put us on the landmark for Rugby Australia."

The Levis understand the platform they have and both bring a different style to the Sevens program.

Maddison is the speedster of the team, often looked to as the first and second options in attack such is her blistering pace on the wing.

She holds the record for most tries in a World Series season and has twice been named the best player in the world, only to miss out on the award.

It adds more weight to the ‘iconic’ nickname she’s picked up, even if the origins are a far different story.

“We were discussing the destination of where the games are going and our physio came up to me and pointed and said iconic because we couldn’t work out the word,” Levi explained. “She pointed at me and I thought she was calling me iconic. It’s kind of stuck from me being a bit ditzy.”

Coach Tim Walsh was quick to give up Teagan’s nickname, a reference to her ‘pitfall’ style of bludging opponents on the field.

Levi has developed a reputation as one of the hardest hittest on the circuit, using her Australian Rules background to slowly develop as a reliable restart and goal-kicking option

“When I go out on the field, I just turn into some crazy person,” she said

“Wherever the ball is, I want to be there and if someone has a ball in front of me, I just want to nail them.

“That’s my nickname and I actually love it. It’s pretty cool to be called ‘Pity’ all the time and just to be known for that out in the field is really exciting.”

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