With the game of sevens reaching greater heights after the success of the Olympic Games, here are some of the players that deserve recognition for their contribution to the game.
Last Word On Rugby contributor Jovilisi Waqa has covered the full 2015/16 World Rugby Sevens Series, Olympic qualifying and Olympic tournament. His popular ‘Lowdown’ features have covered some the brightest stars of the game today, and many up and coming players of the future. Enjoy his end-of-year examination of the women’s and men’s players, over the sevens circuit from December 2015 to September 2016.
‘The Lowdown’ on the Women’s Game
2016 has been phenomenal for women’s sport. Along with participation, the quality of sport has risen and sevens performances were outstanding. And although the applause always falls on the winners, tryscorers and MVP’s; deservedly so, but the game is more than just a ‘highlight reel’.
While the names below might be new–if you don’t follow the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series but these ladies punch above their weight. Together with the superstars, they have all helped in the growth of the game in their countries and sports.
— UNH Womens Rugby (@unhwr) December 29, 2016
Names to Watch
The likes of Marie Yamaguchi of Japan, maybe carrying the hopes of Asia. Nadezda Kudinova of Russia who is so influential in the team, that without her presence they easily falter. Of course, there is Patricia Garcia, an amazing XV’s and sevens player, and leader. But for this reporter, you cannot exclude Beatriz ‘Baby’ Furturo–she defies the odds to help market the game she loves, in a country synonymous with football: Brazil.
These women; the future stars and others like them, are performers in their own right. They help in the growth of the game just by their actions and by their positive attitudes. And Last Word On Rugby pays tribute to these Fantastic Seven Ladies;
Marie Yamaguchi (JPN)
Nadezda Kudinova (RUS)
Camille Grassineau (FRA)
Patricia Garcia (ESP)
Ana Maria Roqica (FIJ)
Beatriz ‘Baby’ Furturo (BRA)
Lucy Mulhall (IRE)
Women High Performing Athletes Like the Men
These are some of the women that have been consistent in their performance in the 2015/16 season and they make up the LWOR Dream Team. Limited to only seven, leaving some of the big names out was hard. The likes of Aussie captain Sharni Williams, Litia Naiqato of Fiji and Kiwi duo Kelly Brazier and Kayla McAlister. All stars, but the list below make up ‘the Lowdown’ first pick team of the season.
WOMEN’S 2016 DREAM TEAM
Jen Kish (CAN)
Sarah Goss (NZ)
Charlotte Caslick (AUS)
Ghislaine Landry (CAN)
Emilee Cherry (AUS)
Portia Woodman (NZ)
Emily Scarratt (ENG)
The dream team have the leadership of three national captains: Jen Kish of Canada, Sarah Goss of New Zealand and Emily Scarratt of England. Also in the mix is World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player Of The Year Charlotte Caslick. A fine group, and in 2016/17 they will again face off for the world title. These ladies may get the recognition they deserve, but here at Last Word On Rugby, we salute all of them for their efforts.
2016 LWOR Most Valuable Women’s Sevens Player
— ECNL (@theECNL) August 5, 2016
Jillion Porter (USA) she defied the odds, fought off a rare cancer to fulfill her dreams in representing her nation at the pinnacle of all sports playing the game she loves. And in 2016, her comeback from cancer was inspirational, but her substance on the field had not changed.
Potter is still committed to the sports development and was a handful for players at the Olympic Games, as well as this years first round at the Dubai Sevens.
‘The Lowdown’ on the Men’s Game
Without question, the Fijians dominated the men’s sevens season with their exploits over the Sevens Series and the Olympics (see main photo). A high success rate–polar opposite to that were the Kiwis though, who had that sides worst ever result. The contrasts couldn’t be more clear and Ben Ryan left his Fiji role with complete satisfaction.
On the other hand, the Japanese defied all odds and for LWOR they were the story of 2016 in the Men’s game. In a sport where you thought you had it all figured out, the game of sevens ‘throws away the scripts’ with commentators chasing for new metaphors. Japan were one side who brought that excitement factor to the series. Such is the thrill of this wonderful game, it leaves it’s audience captivated.
Recognition for Sevens Players Who Do Not Always Receive It
Not all can feature in any dream team, and not every side can win each tournament. South Africa, Kenya and even Scotland had success over the last 12 months, but over the last year, the Sevens Series has brought in some names that deserve more recognition.
The likes of Admir Cjenovic, a Bosnia-born Canadian who took up the sport late in his teens and continues to impress all with his progress. He is part of the influx of talent to many nations, that benefits the team, as well as the sport.
Vladmir Ostronshko carries the hopes of the Russians with him, Nelson Oyoo has speed that few can match. The big finds of the season were little Henry Hutchison and big Sammy Meyers, both from Australia.
Those men, and many more will continue to pursue their dreams over the 2016/17 season. Each has committed years to the game, and all deserve a pat on the back for the last 12 months–and the next year ahead.
2016 LWOR Breakout Men’s Sevens Player
However, the one man to make his mark of the last season is none other than Nate Ebner. He left American Football to pursue a dream of playing in the Olympics, and surprised all with his performances across the Sevens Series and in Rio.
— The Football Bible™ (@TheFBBible) December 11, 2016
2015/16 Was a Standout Season
Here are some of the players that stood out in this latest season. From the speed of Seabelo Senatla to the ‘offload prowess’ of Virimi Vakatawa. We saw the never dying attitude of Falemiga Selesele, the amazing one hand carry and offloads of Jasa Veremalua, through to the breakdown work of James Rodwell.
The below list is our 2016 Dream Team and it features some players that are inspirational–others are just freaks of the game. Many great tries were scored by many of these men, with some moments that will linger in our hearts forever. Unfortunately, LWOR could pick just seven players only (the list could have been 28, at least) and here they are:
MEN’S 2016 DREAM TEAM
Jasa Veremalua (FIJI)
Seabelo Senatla (RSA)
James Rodwell (ENG)
Virimi Vakatawa (FRA)
Falemiga Selesele (SAM)
Jerry Tuwai (FIJI)
Osea Kolinisau (FIJI)
2016 Most Valuable Men’s Player
— HSBC Sport (@HSBC_Sport) December 6, 2016
Osea Kolinisau led his tiny nation to back-to-back series titles. But he also led the way during the Olympics, helping Fiji secure Gold in Rio. Kolinisau was almost written off by the Fijian public, but when Ben Ryan took the reigns over, he soared to greater potential. And Last Word On Rugby must agree, he made a wise choice.
The next Sevens Series will be a test to see if champions like Osea Kolinisau can reproduce that form. If [and when] he does, it will cement his place in Fijian sevens history–but he made such an impression in our Sevens department, that LWOR hope that you agree, Osea was the ‘best of the best’.
“Main photo credit”