Australia will travel to Japan for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games next month without one of the key architects of their women’s sevens success at Rio 2016Emilee Cherry.

Last week, Cherry called time on her international playing career, nine years after she made her debut at the first event of the inaugural women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.

“It has been an absolute privilege to be able to represent my country and play in the green and gold for all these years,” she said. 

“I have had some incredible experiences throughout my rugby journey, from debuting in 2012, a gold medal win in Rio, and the birth of my daughter Alice.”

From scoring a hat-trick in that first tournament in Dubai, to becoming an Olympic champion and the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year, we recap five highlights from an incredible career.

Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens 2012

Cherry had turned 20 less than a month previously, but was already an important player for Australia when she made her debut in the first tournament of the inaugural women’s World Series in November 2012.

Cherry marked the occasion with a try, in a 24-12 win over the Netherlands, before going on to cross the whitewash seven times as Australia finished fourth.

The highlight from a personal perspective came at the end of day one in Dubai, when the rapid back scored all three of her side’s tries in a 15-7 defeat of the USA.

Cherry’s performance in the desert set the tone for what has been a prolific World Series career. The Queenslander has scored 719 points — including 131 tries — in 159 matches on the circuit, good enough for seventh on the all-time scoring list.

World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year 2014

Following the first women’s World Series, Australia travelled to Moscow for Rugby World Cup Sevens 2013, where Cherry scored four tries in six matches.

She carried that form into the following World Series, and scored a remarkable 33 tries across events in Dubai, Atlanta, São Paulo, Guangzhou and Amsterdam.

Included in Cherry’s mammoth haul were tries in each of Australia’s final victories against their great rivals, New Zealand, in Dubai and Brazil to secure their first Cup titles.

Australia faced New Zealand again in the Cup final of the last event of the season, in Amsterdam. Unsurprisingly, Cherry scored a try but it proved to be in vain as the Black Ferns Sevens put the seal on a second successive World Series title with a 29-12 win.

Cherry’s achievements had not gone unnoticed, however, and she became the first Australian to be named World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year.

Rio 2016 — Olympic champion

Australia eventually deposed New Zealand as World Series champions in 2016, and Cherry more than played her part as she contributed 22 tries to the cause.

Understandably, therefore, the squad travelled to Rio for the Olympic Games full of confidence and Cherry played all six matches as Australia became rugby’s first female gold medallists.

Her standout performance of the tournament came in the semi-final against Canada, as she set her side on their way to victory with two first-half tries. 

Cherry did not breach the New Zealand line in the final, but did provide the assist for Ellia Green’s second-half score which gave Australia a commanding — and ultimately unassailable — 12-point lead.

HSBC Paris Sevens 2018

Australia arrived at the final stop on the 2018 Series knowing that they would secure a second title if they qualified for the Cup final, regardless of the result in the showpiece match.

Cherry had already scored the match-winning try that sealed a comeback victory against Fiji in the quarter-finals and set up a meeting with hosts France in the last four.

She then notched one of her side’s two first-half tries as Australia built a 14-0 half-time advantage. France, though, hit back in the second period and took a 17-14 lead with less than 90 seconds to go.

But, with time running out at Stade Jean Bouin, Cherry appeared on the shoulder of Yasmin Meakes to take the scoring pass — and secure a second World Series triumph for Australia.

HSBC New Zealand Sevens 2020

Having helped Australia to third place at Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco Cherry took some time away from the World Series for the birth of her first child, Alice.

But, she remained in typically prolific form when she made her comeback, as her first two competitive touches of a ball in 18 months both resulted in a try.

Australia would go on to lose to Canada in the semi-finals and France in the third-place play-off — a match Cherry sat out — but the returning star was just happy to be back. 

“I can vividly remember now running out for that first time and just thinking how privileged I am and how special [it is] to be able to pull on that Australian jersey again and represent my country,” she told World Rugby at the time.

“And, I guess, it also makes it so special to be back in alongside some of my best friends and that’s so special.”

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