We return to Darwin next week for the fourth consecutive year to face the challenge of one of the world’s toughest tournaments. It’s always a good character building exercise and the presence of the Pearls and Thunderbolts will ensure that this year it won’t get any easier.
Last year we were lucky to have Charlotte Caslick & Vani Pelite rejoin the squad and lead a good balance of youngsters & more experienced players to a title win. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s pretty fair to say it was one of the best Tribe7s teams we’ve fielded, scoring 297-0 over the weekend, including a cup final demolition of a quality Queensland team that included 4 or 5 players that went on to play for Aussie 7s in the World Series in 2016.
Our men had some epic battles with the likes of Hong Kong & Borneo Eagles in our first couple of trips north, but last year saw the emergence of a pretty intense rivalry with the champion Fijian side, Tabadamu. It is disappointing that Tabadamu will miss the 2017 event, but there has been no drop in quality with the Thunderbolts, Cavaliers, Borneo Eagles, Spurs, Brisbane Fiji and Iconz in the draw.
For the first time in 4 years we have moved away from the ‘business model’ of fielding women’s teams with an even balance of quality young emerging players and a strong core of experienced players. This year 10 of our players are under 21 & 7 of them are 18 or under. It was a conscious decision knowing that Australia would bring something like 8 contracted players with their Pearls squad.
Can we compete with a Pearls team that includes someone like Vani Pelite who is a superstar of the game internationally? That question made us look at our vision ‘Aiming to develop future Olympians’. Question answered. The Pearls are bringing the anointed future of Aussie 7s to Darwin; girls with their sights set on the Gold Coast & Tokyo. We are bringing a bunch of 17 year olds, maybe a step behind, but armed with the same ambition and carrying a reminder that the bar will need to be constantly set higher, because someone is chasing hard.
Here is a look at the squads we are bringing in 2017 with comments from the coaching staff.
Liz Patu – Wallaroos, Qld Womens XV
Jannicke Ijdens – Dutch National
Veteronnica Fomai – Qld Youth 7s 2016
Tiarna Molloy – NSW Youth 7s, Aus Youth 7s 2016
Portia Bourke – Qld Youth 7s 2016
Jailyn To’o – Tribe U18 International tour to Noumea
Laura Waldie – Aus 7s, Qld 7s, Youth Olympics Gold Medallist
Lauren Brown – Qld 7s, Aus Uni 7s 2016
Marioulla Belessis – Qld 7s, Youth Olympics Gold Medallist
*Ashleigh Walker – NSW 7s, NSW Country XV Rookie of the Year 2016.
Georgia Hannaway – Qld Youth 7s
Emily Bass – Qld 7s Academy
This team has an eye on the future and very much focused on our ambition to help find and develop the stars of the future. Senior players in Wallaroo, Liz Patu, Dutch international 7s player Jannicke Ijdens & former Aussie 7s member Laura Waldie have been tasked with mentoring and leading the youngest team we have ever assembled for an open age elite tournament.
The team reflects the rebuilding plans in place for our program following the elevation of the likes of Georgie Friedrichs and Demi Hayes to full time contracts with the Aussie 7s program. Whilst we have a great tradition in finding young talent, it is only with the generous support of Locality Planning Energy behind us that we are able to provide a pathway to high levels of rugby for a young team like this.
Players to watch – Lauren Brown, after an outstanding 2016 7s season in which she was a part of the National Championship winning Queensland Reds team. She’s also got a wonderful pedigree, being from the same Queensland Primary School team as Charlotte Caslick & Vani Pelite that won the national touch championship in 2007! Another worth watching is Tiarna Molloy who has been with the Tribe program since she was 15 & returns to Darwin along with Liz Patu as the only surviving members of the 2016 squad. Molloy was part of the 2016 Australian Youth Team that toured New Zealand and captained our first junior touring team to Noumea. A strong ball runner with a high work rate, you can expect to see a lot of her over the weekend.
Coach Cassidy Holland “I’m excited by the group we have put together for the Coca-Cola Hottest 7s tournament. It is a real eye opener for the group to come to a high-level event like this with such a young squad, but we have made sure we have picked girls that will not quit when the going gets tough.”
And Hottest 7s in the World is as tough as it gets.
Gary Bautz – NSW 7s 2016 captain
Bennett Leslie- Aus 7s Development, NSW 7s
Joe Pincus – Qld 7s
Nicki Tuvitu – Qld 7s
Tom Connor – Aus 7s Development, NSW 7s
Jock Campbell – Qld 7s
Sam Caslick – Aus 7s
Jack Curtin – Qld 7s
Connor Clancy – Qld 7s
Larry Hermans – Samoa training squad
Junior Laloifi – Aus 7s, Qld 7s, Qld Reds 2016
One to be named following a late withdrawal
Our men’s team sees a lot of familiar faces coming back together. Pincus, Leslie, Bautz, Connor and Campbell are all back from Dubai 7s (2016) along with regular long-serving players such as Laloifi, Tuvitu and Caslick dropping back into the squad for the Coca-Cola Hottest 7s tournament. This forms a strong squad that will take to the field over the two days at Rugby Park.
A player well worth keeping an eye on is Joe Pincus. He is a player who has shown large growth in his sevens development from regular game time with the program. Joe has just been down the Australian Sevens development program. Extremely strong in the air at restart time, so look for him to be a real weapon around that area of the game. But right across the squad you have real strike power. Junior Laloifi is back in black and the Ballymore Kid brings real x-factor with him. Every good sevens team has that player who gives the group it’s energy and for us, that’s Nicki Tuvitu. You get plenty of ordinary chat out of him in down time, but when the business starts, he’s the bloke pulling the group together.
Coach by Nathan McMahon “It’s like old mates coming back together. The banter has been flying within the chat group. We all really enjoy the company off the field.
The core of the playing group has been together for a long time now from a playing point of view. It is just making sure we are all on the same page with only one training session together and we all do our job and make sure the team comes first. It all starts with the work we are willing to do off the ball.
That will make this a very enjoyable weekend for the group at one of, if not the hardest place in the world to play sevens”.