Get ready Australia. History is going to happen in August this year when rugby sevens takes the stage at the Rio Olympics.
But before we get there – we need squads.
ICYMI, it was yesterday that Australia named its squads for the men’s and women’s rugby sevens at Rio.
Our women’s team is currently ranked number 1 in the world after being the first ever Australian team to be crowned World Series Champions earlier this year and are looking red hot ahead of the Olympics.
The side going to Rio is an outstanding one and will be captained by Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry and includes Ellia Green, Emma Tonegato, Charlotte Caslick, Chloe Dalton and Emilee Cherry.
If you don’t know the names of these women, it’s time to start getting familiar because come the conclusion of the Olympics, they will be household names.
The squad also includes our friend Alicia Quirk.
Shannon Byrne, Sarah Leach and myself caught up with Alicia earlier this year, just before the Rugby’s 7’s team went to France for the final leg of the World Series.
To celebrate Alicia’s inclusion in the squad we thought we would share that interview again.
1. Alicia on the competition within the squad. The total squad includes 21 players but only 12 will be going to Rio…
“Everyone put their best foot forward and having that type of competition has only made the entire squad better. Like any sport it is cut throat and brutal when making the decision about the final team but we are a big tight-knit family and we are all working hard and pushing each other to make sure we are at our best. For those who haven’t been selected it was just because one of the other girls was better.”
2. Alicia on the co-captaincy between Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry…
“Sharni has been able to be assisted by Shannon with that co-captaincy and allowing Sharni to focus on getting her body physically and her mind right [Sharni only returned from injury for the tournament in France]. They work really well together. Sharni is more a leader by example and Shannon is more of that communicator. They just bounce ideas off each other. We call them the ‘Bash Sisters’ – they are best mates off the field and they are a powerhouse on the field. It has been good for both of them to be together.”
4. Alicia on the letter that Shannon Parry wrote to her 16 year old self and the line that “you and 19 of your best friends will change rugby in this country forever”.
“That was probably one of the best things I have ever read from Shannon and it is 100 per cent true. I live with my team mates, I train with them every day. We have been centralised here in Sydney so our friendship group is quite limited – we only really have each other and for a group of 21 girls that hang out together day in, day out and travel the world with each other, we get along so well. I think that is the reason we do so well because we really are best friends and enjoy playing together. We have so much fun when we do it and if something goes wrong you know your team mate is going to have your back because they are your best mates.”
5. Alicia on how it feels to be part of a group of girls that are trailblazers in their sport and what more she would like to be done to further develop women’s rugby…
“I don’t know if we have enough time for me to be able to tell you what else I would like to see, but one of the things our coach Tim Walsh wanted to do was to establish not just success for ourselves but to establish a platform for young girls to aspire to have the same dream as what we have and have that same enjoyment and fun as we do. If what we do on the field, if that can help change the game or women’s rugby then we are so proud to set that example for other people. It is actually amazing when people watch us, they are so surprised at how fit and how fast and exciting the game is and how feminine the girls are as well. The more we play and the more exposure we get, the more heads we are going to turn.”
6. The girls are the first Australian team to be crowned World Series Champions and are looking like medal contenders. Alicia on how the team is ‘keeping a lid on it’…
“We have had this vision and dream for 4 years so when we all started playing. We have been talking about this for a long time and it is normal, so it’s not so much ‘keeping a lid on it’ but ‘keeping it in check’. We want to keep talking about it so it becomes normal. We are a very process driven team so we just keep ticking all the boxes, do the things we have to do – it sounds very cliché but that is just how we go about our business. You do find yourself pinching yourself in those moments, thinking ‘I could actually be going to the Olympics”.
7. Alicia on Cheryl Soon and the trailblazers before her…
“I got the opportunity to play with Cheryl and some of the other women that won that first World Cup in Dubai in 2009 and Nicole Beck still plays in our team now as one of those girls that started the revolution of women playing sevens so we are so grateful that we have this opportunity and get to be a part of it. We hope to pass it onto other young girls. 4 years ago I didn’t even know this sport existed and now I have the chance to go to the Olympics”.
8. Alicia on how she made the transition to rugby sevens from touch football…
“I got a letter in the mail from the ARU at the time after Cheryl had achieved success in getting rugby sevens as part of the Olympics. There was a national recruitment drive and I got a letter from the ARU saying ‘come and try rugby’, I had no idea what it was, never played, never tackled. Then I went to my first camp in Canberra and sucked. I was so scared, I didn’t like the contact side of thing, I thought I would just score a couple of tries here and there. At the time I was still playing touch football and had just returned from the World Cup. I was doing both but because it was so challenging, I am a very stubborn person and it was something I wasn’t very good at, so I needed to stick with it and I knew that if I put in the hard work I would get better and get to a level where I would be selected. I have been on the team since then.”
9. Alicia on the pressure mounting for the Olympics…
“We don’t put that kind of pressure on ourselves. We always come back to ‘girls let’s just have fun’ because we always play our best when we do. We have been put in high pressure situation before, we have played in stadiums with big capacities. We are treating it just like any other event, except the final outcome is a little bit different.
10. Alicia’s favourite moment in women’s sport this year…
“Winning the final in Sao Paolo, playing in front of that Brazilian crowd and in completely different conditions. To come away with a 29-0 win was the best we have done this season.
To hear the rest of the interview click here.
Ladies who Lineout xxx