Olympic gold medallist Alicia Lucas has admitted she was left stunned by the impact Australia’s success at Rio 2016 had on the women’s game in her homeland.
Lucas played all six matches, including the 24-17 final victory against New Zealand, as Australia claimed the maiden women’s Olympic sevens title four years ago.
Standing on top of the podium in Brazil was the culmination of a three-year journey for the 28-year-old, who made her HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series debut in 2013 having switched from touch football.
But, as Lucas admitted on the latest episode of Between the Lines, the players had been so focused on winning gold that they had “no idea” what affect it would have on Australia.
“That was probably the part of the Olympics that blew me away the most,” Lucas told Sean Maloney.
“Because it was obviously such a selfish goal, going to the Olympics and winning your own gold medal. And our team, we’d just talked about it in our own bubble and we were just stoked that we’d achieved that personally and on a team level.
“But we had no idea of the impact, of what that gold medal would mean to so many other people, and to our country and our nation. And in a broader sense, having women’s rugby at the Olympics, what that meant for rugby for the whole world.
“And that is probably the most proudest part, is how much impact that could have and how much it meant to so many other people.”
Lucas became aware exactly how much it meant when she attended a civic reception, which had been organised in her honour in her hometown of Wagga Wagga.
“I had this lovely 84-year-old woman come up to me and she said, ‘I never thought in my lifetime I would get to hold one of these [a gold medal]’.
‘Girls just wanted to play rugby’
“And that just sent shivers down my spine about how much — and she had tears in her eyes — how much me having won it meant to her.
“Then the same feeling when you show it to a little girl and explain to her that this was just a dream, too, for me and it could become her reality.
“It was just massive, and then to have the sport and grassroots level just go gangbuster, especially in women’s rugby, because girls just wanted to play rugby.
“They wanted to braid their hair like Charlotte Caslick, they wanted to have cornrows like Ellia Green, they wanted to wear the same boots and buy our jerseys.
“It was so overwhelming but it was so cool, and it made us proud that we did all that hard work, for them essentially and that now the opportunities that they have available to them are incredible and that they’re only going to continue to grow.”