Australia’s all-conquering women’s sevens team aiming to raise the bar in 2023
Last season’s treble winners head to Dubai this weekend for the start of the women’s HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 2023 confident they can step up another level.
Having won the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens within the space of a few months, 2022 will be a hard year for Australia’s women’s sevens team to top.
As a response to the team’s disappointing performance at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, it could not have been any more emphatic.
On top of the world! 🇦🇪— World Rugby 7s (@WorldRugby7s) November 29, 2022
Ready to rock and roll at Emirates Dubai 7s 🔥#Dubai7s | #HSBC7s pic.twitter.com/0gmltAbXXd
Such was their dominance, Australians accounted for three of the four places on the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year shortlist, with Charlotte Caslick beating off competition from team-mates, Maddison Levi and Faith Nathan, as well as Ireland’s Amee-Leigh Murphy Crowe, the 2022 World Series top try-scorer, to win her second award.
The core of the Australian squad that swept all before them has been retained for this season and Caslick and Demi Hayes will again serve as co-captains.
Such continuity can only serve Australia well, but despite the dominance and titles, head coach Tim Walsh believes there are areas of growth left in the side.
“It's a real privilege to work with this group of exceptional athletes but there’s still room for growth, there are still massive amounts of it,” he said.
“I reckon this team can certainly take areas of their game to the next level. If you look at attack, defence, the restart and restart reception as the sort of key areas, in every single one of those areas, there's room for improvement, some more than others.
“They're a good attacking team. Defence wins tournaments, and while we're not the biggest team, we are getting fitter and more powerful, thanks to (Head of Athletic Performance) Tom Carter.”
🇦🇺 Get behind your #Aussie7s teams as the World Series heads to Dubai— AU 7s (@Aussie7s) November 28, 2022
🗓 December 2-3
🏟 The Sevens Stadium, Dubai
📺 @beinsports_aus @kayosports#Dubai7s #HSBC7s pic.twitter.com/ehTiFZCwXX
Plenty at stake
Qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games is riding on this year’s World Series, with the top four teams at the season’s end confirming their place in the line-up.
Dubai, this weekend, marks the start of that journey and Australia have fond memories of the venue having won back-to-back titles there in 2022.
However, Walsh is the first to acknowledge that with so much at stake, they face a big challenge from the word go.
“The opening tournament gives all teams the opportunity to execute off-season training strategies in the hope that they develop into competitive advantages,” he said.
“We are expecting all teams to be at their best from the first game, and there is plenty at stake due to the promise of Olympic qualification.
“Our team has a unique style both on and off the field – everybody has a voice and an integral part to play.
“Last year, we proved we could go out there and consistently win – our objective this year is to better ourselves every single day.”
In addition to World Rugby Player of the Year nominees Caslick, Levi and Nathan, the Australia team had plenty of other star performers, some more established than others.
Madison Ashby made her World Series debut as a teenager in Glendale, experiencing a breakout 2022 that included selection in the Dream Team for the 2022 Series, and now the 21-year-old is looking forward to backing that up in the year ahead.
“After winning the Triple Crown last year, the team is so excited by the prospect of the 2024 Olympics in Paris,” said Ashby.
“I’m really looking forward to continuing my work with the team – it’s such an amazing group of girls and we feel that there’s a great rapport between us and the coaching staff.”