213 – 0 are you kidding me? The Australian Women’s 7’s team just went through an entire world series tournament without conceding a single point… And no one was there to watch it.
You might read this and think “yeah well he’s biased, he’s worked with a few of these girls”. if you’re thinking that YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT! But that shouldn’t diminish the accomplishment. This team is the first in the history of world series 7’s (Male or Female) to go through an entire tournament without conceding a single point, the single most dominant display in rugby 7’s history. And again… No one watched it.
As most men who are concerned with self-preservation would, I brought my partner Cat to the Sydney 7’s. Cat acted as the UC 7’s teams photographer throughout the duration of the tournament so she’s grown to enjoy 7s preferring it over the 15 a side game. Outside of those tournaments Cat and I had been to a few other international tournaments including the Casillero Del Diablo 7’s in Valparaiso, Chile (Link). So we were both excited for the days ahead and the fact we could watch the Women and the Men in the same venue was a huge bonus!
Cat and I were lucky enough to be there for all three days. The days started at 930 and we usually left straight after the last Men’s game around 10 O’Clock at night. It’s such a brilliant event, the best 7’s players the world has to offer in one place for three days. And, one of the few tournaments on the circuit where the men and women play at the same venue and on the same program. We couldn’t shake the disappointment however of the small crowds for the Women’s games particularly on the 1st and 2nd days.
After the 1st day, I was lucky enough to catch up really briefly with Sharni Williams and Cassie Staples who were big parts of the UC team I was involved with. While they were both happy with the team’s performance on day 1, the sentiment was that they hadn’t played their best footy yet. They both felt that they needed to cut out some little mistakes in order to have a chance at taking out the tournament.
Boy did they fix up those little mistakes! The next two days were as complete a performance as I’d ever seen. 7’s tournaments can be so unforgiving because you’re playing multiple games in a day and often over 2 or 3 days, one day you can be hot and the next if you start slow, you can find yourself out of the tournament entirely. That’s what makes this performance so impressive, for three days these women were relentless and played an open and expansive style of footy backing their skills and speed even late into the last game of the tournament.
The exclamation mark for the girls was their dominant 31 – 0 win over the highly skilled New Zealand side in the final. Like most Australian Rugby fans I love it when we beat the Kiwis so this victory was made that much more special. And as the scoreline would suggest the Australian women were absolutely flawless in the final showcasing their elite skill, speed, athleticism, and toughness.
For the game, the crowd was much larger but nowhere near the size of the crowd that watched the Australian men take out the tournament a few hours later. Charlotte Casslick was quoted as saying; “It’s pretty shit when you run out at 9 O’clock in the morning and no-one’s turned up yet.”
A statement I wholeheartedly agree with. The reality is the women are Olympic Gold Medalists, currently in 1st place in the series and are equally as skilled as the men. Without mentioning having put on the most dominant display in 7s history, the onus has to be on the fans to show up and support our women, who are traditionally more successful than the men’s team.
Cassock was also quoted as saying; “I’d love to see Sydney and the rest of tournaments try and implement a more unanimous tournament.”
There’s certainly more that can be done to achieve this, for example, playing men’s games during the breaks in play for the women’s tournament and vice versa. However, Rugby Australia should be commended in order to integrate the two tournaments they were forced to switch dates with the New Zealand leg of the HSBC Women’s 7’s World Series, in order to adhere to the player welfare guidelines on rest periods between tournaments.
Unfortunately for Rugby Australia, this meant that the tournament fell on the Australia Day long weekend. Which put the tournament in direct competition with Coast trips, Backyard BBQs, ODI Cricket, The Australian Open Final and a Foo Fighters Concert. Ultimately resulting in overall attendance dropping to 54,875 from 75,000 last year. Representing a drop in revenue of roughly $700,000.
It’s easy to be critical of Rugby Australia, especially in light of the ridiculousnesses that has surrounded it in the last 12 months. But in this instance, it’s on the fans.
So with all of that said I only have one thing left to say. Get out of bed and watch these women play, we may not see another Australian team dominate in this fashion ever again!