With the good relations that have always existed, it was quickly accepted when the Aussie 7s teams invited the New Zealand Sevens squads to a pre-Olympic Oceania tournament based in Townsville, QLD.
The newly developed Pacific-Aus Sports Oceania Sevens tournament is scheduled for June 25-27, boosting all qualified team’s preparations ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The event brings world-class rugby sevens to fans in the Southern Hemisphere this June and is one of many initiatives of Oceania Rugby that are proudly supported by the Australian Government’s PacificAus Sports program.
What is good for the host, is doubly good for the invited guests. The competition is urgently needed – as neither New Zealand men nor women have played any other International opposition, than Australia. Yet with a literal ban on International travel being dictated by New Zealand Rugby, the best option is to visit Australia in the weeks before the biggest tournament players can imagine [aside from the Rugby World Cup Sevens].
Consisting of four men’s and four women’s teams with the national teams from Australia (current women’s Olympic gold medalist), Fiji (current men’s Olympic gold medalist) and New Zealand (current men’s and women’s Commonwealth and Rugby World Cup Sevens champions), joined by an Oceania Barbarian side in both the men’s and women’s draws.
The Oceania Sevens will be held at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on June 25-27, 2021.
Aussie 7s invite New Zealand Sevens squads to pre-Olympic Oceania tournament
One of the key benefits for the All Black Sevens men will be facing their Pacific neighbours, and Olympic champions, Fiji. Isolated by the global pandemic; in a similar way to New Zealand (NZ) and Australia (AUS), the Flying Fijians had enjoyed weeks of positive internal competition.
Their own Super Sevens Series heralded several domestic tournaments, right across the Fiji Islands. In the weeks prior to their own outbreak of the Coronavirus, it provided a semblance of competition for the men and women. Now, both will be taken away from the lingering threat of Covid-19, to the safety of Townsville and conditions that may just replicate those of Tokyo.
Meeting their biggest opposition head-on, the NZ men will be tested to the highest degree. A huge plus for that side; as it will be for the Aussie 7s group too. While on the women’s side of the draw, the World Champion Black Ferns Sevens will be planning to train hard to face their Aussie counterparts. A team who hold the Olympic Gold medals over their Kiwi rivals – though the common view is that the favourites tag sits with the Black Ferns.
Stacked full of past World Rugby Sevens player of the year award winners, the women’s New Zealand Sevens squads players will feel they can benefit the most from exposure to external competition. Matching against Fijiana and an Oceania Baabaas side, the real challenge will be Australia. Yet for that side, this week saw one of their key pillars make the tough decision to retire.
Emilee Cherry retires ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympics
For the Aussie 7s, one of their pillars has unfortunately called time on her illustrious international career. 28-year old Emilee Cherry announced that injury means she will not be in the Aussie squad for the Townsville event, or to defend their Olympic title.
In the 2013/14 season, Cherry was voted World Rugby Women’s Sevens Player of the Year and was one of the linchpins in Australia’s successful 2016 campaign at the Rio Olympic Games. One of only six Australian players to play in over 30 HSBC World Series tournaments, Emilee welcomed her first child to the world in 2019, before making a successful return to the international arena.
🐐 @emilee_cherry calls time. #Aussie7s pic.twitter.com/MApTIBPwYA
— RUGBYcomau (@rugbycomau) May 27, 2021
Playing beside Aussie greats Shannon Parry and Charlotte Caslick, now faced with a career-ending injury, the famed Aussie player told Rugby AU, “I’ve always reiterated the fact that you’re only as successful as those around you, and my success is because of those who I have been lucky to call my teammates, friends, and family. I have had some incredible experiences throughout my Rugby journey, from debuting in 2012, a Gold medal win in Rio, and the birth of my daughter Alice.
“These are just some of the moments which I’ll look back on and cherish, but, above all the achievements, the highlight has been the people I’ve met along the way.”
Her high standards will now inspire the next generation, whose immediate goal will be to match the gold medal-focused Kiwi girls. It will be perfect preparation for all parties, ahead of the expected lockdown conditions proposed for Olympic squads, as they ready for the one ‘golden dream’ on every player’s wishlist.
Many sevens rugby fans will be excited to see at least some sevens rugby action. And for the protagonists, this will be the first time Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand have competed together since the cancelation of the 2020 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
“Main photo credit”
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