Serevi. Rush. Gollings. Tuwai. A quartet of Sevens Legends, deserving of the capital letters, who have etched highlight reels with memories of spine-tingling skill, creative genius, countless trophy lifts and a scroll of individual and collective achievements spanning the last 25 years.
With a new look and feel for the shortened game, and an Olympic Games on the horizon, we have a chance to create a new list of names as heady as the cities, legs and stadiums that make up HSBC SVNS 2024. So, let’s start…
Marcos “El Rayo” Moneta
Few players possess an ability to consistently create something from seemingly nothing. Marcos Moneta finds shards of light down the darkest, most dismal avenues, brightening up stadiums with electricity and tenacity in equal measures.
Much like his coach, Santiago Gómez-Cora, many of Moneta’s moments come through a kicking game befitting his idol (and inspiration for his calf tattoo), Lionel Messi. However, there is a well-trodden line in rugby that ‘attack gets you noticed, but defence gets you picked’, and this is why Moneta is on an expedited trajectory to iconic status.
His efforts in defence are, at times, beyond comprehension. Tracking back and reeling in players where most would have given up hope, that’s his character personified. He leads and inspires a Los Pumas Sevens team who are curating something very special – backed up by an Olympic bronze. But that may not be their only medal colour come July in Paris.
Pace and power are prerequisites for a sevens player, and Australian youngster Darby Lancaster has already shown enough in his short sevens career to entice Super Rugby clubs into offering contracts, and to even create conversations around international honours.
Fifteens aside, he could be part of an Aussie team that make big waves in SVNS events and beyond. At just 20 years old, he claimed 20 tries in 34 Matches in his last sevens shift and, with HSBC SVNS 2024 about to kick off in Perth, he will be a central figure for a team who have the rare opportunity to win a home event.
Curry’s still cooking
Typically, the contemplations and reflections of legend status of a player are always retrospective. Realising what you have can often only hit when it’s lost, and this was noticeable with the All Blacks Sevens over the last two years, following the omission of Scott Curry on a sabbatical after he won a silver medal in Tokyo.
Curry was so good in his initial stint in sevens he changed the standards, expectations, and application for forwards. He was truly a standard bearer for many years in the famed black jersey.
Debuting in a staggering 2011, he remains one of the fittest, durable, and simply brilliantly consistent players on the SVNS roster. With the engine of a Land Rover, solidity of a tank but all round ability of a sports car, he is truly a great of sevens.
Only one accolade is missing from his ridiculous trophy cabinet: an Olympic gold. Get this and he surely enters the “Iconic Tier” of sevens players.
Conroy the boy
Ireland sevens is still only just out of their stabilisers in terms of their age as a rugby programme.
Having started in 2015, the intervening years impacted by lockdown, its squad has developed brilliantly, and Jordon Conroy has quickly become an engaging, eye-catching and captivating player and person.
He plays with an overriding sense of enjoyment that leads to a smile just watching – he often slides, skates or even somersaults as a try celebration to personify a game that is as entertaining as sport gets.
He knows his charisma isn’t why he gets picked, but he’s got NFL-star levels of presence and personality, which could build a brand and beyond.
If Ireland continue to push for more titles and trophies, he will be a big reason why.
By Rob Vickerman