‘This old duck still has it’: How the youthful squad is bringing Sharni Smale to new heights

Thu, Jan 25, 2024, 6:53 AM
Nathan Williamson
by Nathan Williamson
Sharni Smale continues to turn back the clock with the Sevens program. Photo: World Rugby

Sevens legend Sharni Smale has credited the intense competition surrounding the program as pivotal towards the 35-year-old turning back the clock and producing her best Rugby.

Smale is still hitting personal bests for speed and power as the Rio gold medalist pushes for her third Olympic Games in Paris.

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Having started her Rugby career at 20, Smale has watched the squad’s profile continue to get younger, with 18-year-old Heidi Dennis the latest freakish athlete to come into the side for Perth.

Despite this, Smale remains one of the fittest and fastest under the guidance of Head of Athletic Performance Tom Carter, crediting the former Waratah and the squad for pushing her to new levels.

“It’s more a tribute to the girls because they keep pushing and having competition, the new girls that come in are so elite…it comes down to that competitiveness within our team to really push for better,” she told rugby.com.au

“I think that’s why we’re winning because when you’re pushing each other when you are already superstars within the game, you’re only going to get better.”

Smale has set out Paris as the final destination for her illustrious career, but her form and fitness level could comfortably see her go beyond, even to a fifth World Cup in 2025.

“I’m just taking it day by day at the moment. I’m big on the process and I’m loving it,” she said.

“When you’re done, you’re done. It’s hanging the boots up and you're done but I’m pretty excited about what Charlotte (Caslick) said (yesterday) about going on but the sport keeps growing.

“I speak to my teammates and they started when they were seven or eight years old so the fact the sport has grown so much is unbelievable.

“There’s a spot there for that next generation coming through but the old duck still has it.”

Smale is one of three women's players to taste victory on home soil, a central piece in their historic 2018 Sydney team that won the event whilst not conceding a point.

The squad is eager to replicate these efforts as they hunt for three straight wins in a row on the World Series.

“You can look back at that tournament and see how amazing it was and have belief but there’s a lot of young girls that weren’t there and probably in the stands watching,” Smale said on the event.

“This is a new team and it has a lot of belief on its own. We’ve been in Sydney for several years but to be able to come to Perth and really embrace ourselves in the community and get around in the beautiful conditions…we want to take on the challenge and embrace it.

“…We’ve got some great momentum and had some really good consistency but this is another tournament and can be heightened playing on home soil.

“Our theme is the bubble and we’re staying in it to make sure the process is ticked off and we keep building towards the Olympics.”

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