A quick look at the team sheet explains why Australia’s women’s rugby sevens side aren’t dwelling on their perfect Sydney campaign as they prepare a title defence this weekend.
The Olympic champions scored 213 points across six games without conceding a single point last year in a historic showing that culminated in a 31-0 flogging of New Zealand in the final.
Despite hanging on to claim another world title later that year, Australia haven’t beaten the Kiwis since, losing a thrilling Commonwealth Games final and missing a World Cup rematch when stunned by France in the semis.
They will return to the Sydney Sevens this weekend sitting an unfamiliar fourth in the world series standings and without Shannon Parry (shoulder), Charlotte Caslick (hand) and Demi Hayes (ankle), while Emilee Cherry is pregnant and coach Tim Walsh has joined the men’s program.
The return of Emma Tonegato from her second major shoulder operation is some solace but the 2016 gold medallist knows things will be a little different this time around.
“Last year feels like so long ago now,” she said.
“It’s a new season, new team and we are just focused on qualifying for those Olympics (by finishing in the top four in the world series).”
New coach John Manenti has picked a 12-player squad containing four members with five caps or less, but says the fact there are no debutants is most telling.
After exciting debuts in far-flung rugby sevens ports, Lily Dick, Sariah Paki, Yasmin Meakes and Page McGregor will all get a chance to introduce themselves on home soil ahead of Tokyo 2020.
“I think every tournament’s a chance to step up and show (what you’ve got),” Manenti said, despite admitting Sydney is the priority event of 2019.
“We’re another tournament in, no debutants and I’d like to hope the work we’ve put in with these girls will show some benefits this week.”
Manenti said the fleet-footed Tonegato’s ability to beat someone one-on-one would add “a point of difference” to the new-look side.
Australia will play Spain, China and the United States in pool games on Friday at Spotless Stadium before the weekend’s finals.
United States sit third overall in the world series after two events, with New Zealand unbeaten in top spot and Canada in second.
Australia squad for Sydney Sevens: Samantha Treherne, Sharni Williams (capt), Sariah Paki, Dominque Du Toit, Emma Tonegato, Evania Pelite, Yasmin Meakes, Lily Dick, Emma Sykes, Alicia Quirk, Page McGregor, Ellia Green.