In a ‘normal’ year the end of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series would signal the end of school term, as we like to call it, and open up the opportunity for some much needed R&R and holiday indulgences.
This, however, is not a normal year. It’s an OLYMPIC year, so four days, a few cheat meals and a flying visit home to mum and dad for some TLC was all we got this time round. And too right, we have got lots to do!
Since we arrived back in Australia from Clermont-Ferrand we have been inundated with support from loved ones, new fans and some classic bandwagon lovers, with our fan base continuing to grow.
We cannot thank people enough for their support and for those who continue to follow us on our journey to Rio.
It sometimes feels like I am going to the Olympics just to win a medal for my mum and dad because they are so invested in it and live and breathe every moment with me.
Every minute counts
It has been crazy to see the influx of media attention and coverage we have received celebrating our world series win but we don’t want it to stop there.
Everyone knows the Olympics are a one-off event. Unlike the world series that is a long time of hard work and consistently putting in solid performances for every single event, the Olympics are anyone’s game, anyone’s one-off moment.
We have been working harder and harder than ever before every single day since we returned to training. If you could bottle the intensity everyone is bringing to training it would sell for millions. It is fierce, competitive and making us better and better. There is no more next round, there is no more next game, there is only now and every rep, tackle, run, pass, jump, throw counts.
We are pushing each other to the limits, crawling out of bed every day knowing that although my body is covered in bruises, so is my team-mates’ and my best friends and we are in this together, fighting with each other to make each other better. It’s a good feeling.
Instead of whacking each other day in day out, we had the opportunity to play against the Japanese in an Olympic formatted competition over three days at our training base in Narrabeen.
This game time was really beneficial for our whole squad, giving everyone that one last opportunity to cement her spot in the Olympic team. We were able to implement new game plans and strategies against an opposition we hadn’t played much on the world series.
Beyond special moment
It gave us a good confidence boost going into Rio.
Then came the day we all found out our fate for the Olympics. I was a mixed bag of emotions. Nervous, excited, overwhelmed and frustrated that my meeting was toward the end of the day and I had to wait longer than others to find out.
The way Tim Walsh picked the squad and then celebrated the achievement of being the first 12 women to represent Australian rugby at an Olympic Games was beyond special. It will be something I will keep with me forever and never forget.
I called my boyfriend straight away and was way too excited to get the words out that I was going. I had given my family a heads up on the time of my meeting so they were all on standby. A lot of tears were shed with my mum over the phone (I’m crying while writing this), a very proud moment for her as well. My dad was mid croquet (who even plays that?) for a work business meeting so that was a quick and funny conversation with him.
I could have kept calling people all day but we had to keep it relatively secret, as the official announcement wasn’t to be held until two weeks later. I couldn’t wait to share the news with my team-mates and housemates Emilee (Cherry) and Emma (Tonegato) though.
Something we have spoken about at home for a long time and also for a lot of the time we have lived together. And to be honest we were all relieved that we had made it. A relief to know that your dreams had been achieved and everything we had dedicated our lives to over the past four years had been realised. Super excited is an understatement!
A long journey
The official announcement was unreal. Receiving our oversized boarding passes was a momentous occasion and the novelty of it only made the moment even bigger!
To stand on stage with Emilee, Emma, Shannon, Sharni, Amy, Nicole, Vani, Ellia, Chloe, Gemma and Charlotte and be announced as the Australian women’s sevens Olympic team was the pinnacle of my career to date.
It was an awesome moment and such a surreal feeling. You couldn’t wipe the smiles of anyone’s faces and I could have stayed at Circular Quay all day taking photos and making boomerangs with my Qantas ticket and my best friends.
Quite unbelievable to think that 10 of us started this journey in 2011-12, with Emma and Chloe joining us a year later, with these big aspirations of going to the Olympics for Australia. Well four years on, we had done it! We were going to Rio.
The messages of support we have all received since the announcement has been phenomenal. We are forever grateful for our fans, family and friends for their support. We know none of us would have this opportunity without them and we are very lucky for that.
A team effort
To have the honour of becoming an Olympian is remarkable in itself and I think about my team-mates achieving that and I’m beyond proud of them and I have to pinch myself and remember that that’s me too. I’m going as well.
We are, however, a squad of 21 girls this year and there have been many girls before us in this position. The 12 of us represent not only ourselves but all those girls who don’t get this opportunity and are gutted they are not in our shoes.
It’s heart-breaking to see team-mates miss out due to injury but amazing to see others make it back from injury. We are such a tight-knit group of girls and the 12 selected is just a reflection of how amazing our whole squad is and hard we have pushed, supported and given it to each other.
We have said it from day dot though. We are going to Rio to win a gold medal. We know it will be bloody tough but we are ready for it. We have been preparing so well since the world series. Focusing on our pool games of USA, Fiji and Colombia and then looking at potential match-ups on finals days and crossovers from other pools to ensure we are completely covered across the board in terms of our knowledge of other teams.
We are achieving personal best results in the gym and training against a variety of men’s teams to push ourselves to the limits physically. We are doing whatever it takes and leaving no stone unturned.
We are less than two weeks away from leaving Australia to head to Rio and three weeks away from when competition starts. Rio is fast approaching but we are ready and can’t wait for our moment to arrive. Bring it on!