This article was first written for and published by The Roar.
In terms of results, it’s certainly been a more positive week for Australian rugby.
It started last Saturday when the Australian Wallabies beat Italy 40-27. Sure, it wasn’t pretty – in fact I would go as far as to say it was ugly – but with late tries to Bernard Foley and Reece Hodge, the Wallabies remain undefeated against the Azzurri. Phew.
The win was certainly not convincing, though, and I don’t envy Michael Cheika, who appears to be under pressure at the moment, as does Australian rugby more generally.
The news got more positive from there, with the Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens team finishing in second place at the Clermont Ferrand Rugby Sevens tournament on the weekend. To achieve second place the Pearls defeated the United States by 31 points to 14 and then Canada by 19 points to 14. They then lost to New Zealand in the final, 7-22.
The Pearls placing second at the Clermont Sevens means that they finished second on the 2016/17 Sevens World Series ladder behind New Zealand and in front of Canada. Interestingly these are the same three teams that medalled at the Rio Olympics last year, just in a different order.
It’s been an immense 18 months for the Pearls, including winning the World Series last year, finishing second in the World Series this year and of course winning the gold medal at Rio.
This has had a tremendous influence on rugby sevens, with the sport growing at a remarkable rate – so much so that it was one of the best-subscribed sports in terms of ticketing for the Commonwealth Games next year. The ARU is seeing enough interest in the sport to announce an inaugural Women’s Uni Sevens series, which will start in August.
While some might say that this team hasn’t reached the heights of 2016 this year, the squad has changed significantly over the last six months. Players like Emma Sykes arrived on the sevens scene only last year, Demi Haynes is someone who coach Tim Walsh has referred to as having great athletic physique and Dominique Du Toit continues to go from strength to strength.
For a squad that is going through a slight rebuild, finishing in second place is something which bodes very well for the future.
Rugby sevens, particularly the women’s game, continues to be the jewel in rugby’s crown, and I’m pleased that funding and participation continue to reflect this.
It’s also been a big week for women who represent Australia in the XV format of the game, with the Australian Wallaroos squad being announced this week ahead of the Women’s World Cup in August.
Rugby Sevens Olympic gold medalists Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry return to the 28-woman squad along with two potential debutants in Mahalia Murphy and Trilleen Pomare.
One woman I want to highlight in particular was forward Mollie Gray, who was also announced in the squad.
Mollie is one of my favourite Wallaroos players. Not only is she a fearless advocate for the importance of giving women the opportunity to participate in the XV version of the game, she is also one of the most determined women I have ever met.
Mollie returns to this squad after an immense amount of work to return to fitness after having her ACL operated on less than 100 days ago. Mollie’s social media has kept her followers up to date with her recovery, and considering what a serious injury tearing your ACL is, it’s a testament to how hardworking Mollie is that she has been selected to play.
The Wallaroos leave for Ireland on 1 August and are in a pool with France, Japan and Ireland.
It’s important to remember that this is a team with less than 175 caps amongst them, so certainly take this into account when they are competing against some of the more experienced teams in the world, like England and New Zealand.
With the Women’s Cricket World Cup starting this week, it almost feels like summer and the WBBL is back.
Australia started their world cup campaign successfully with a win over the West Indies by eight wickets with 71 balls remaining.
Where to start? Perhaps with Australia’s batting and the 171 opening run partnership between Beth Mooney and Nicole Bolton. Just quietly, how good was it to see Nicole Bolton get rid of her helmet and bring up a century off 108?
There was clearly also a very conscious decision for the Aussies to play spin, opening up with the left-arm spin of Jess Jonassen, followed by Megan Schutt. This worked a treat, with only 34 runs being scored off the first 10 overs. It was also positive to see my favourite leggy, Kristen Beams finish with figures of 2-26.
The Australian women’s team is currently in action against Sri Lanka with their next game against New Zealand on Sunday night.
Credit to Fox Sports, ABC Radio and Channel 9, all of which are broadcasting the Australian women’s team games. It seems women’s sport is being featured on prime time television increasingly often.
If you’re on Twitter, I also encourage you to try the hashtag #MegLanning and see what happens.
What all this news tells me this week is that while we need to continue to promote and push women’s sport into the spotlight, we also need to celebrate how far we’ve come.
The last two years have been ground breaking – imagine where we will be by 2020.