New Aussie Sevens Stars Unearthed – Central Coast Sevens

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 11: Ed Jenkins of Australia looks on after the Men's Rugby Sevens placing 7-8 match between France and Australia on Day 6 of the Rio 2016 Olympics at Deodoro Stadium on August 11, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

It was a wonderful three day rugby sevens extravaganza at the Central Coast Sevens over the weekend. The ‘Fijian Invasion’ came to nothing though, as the local shadow national sides ran supreme in the end.

The Aussie Thunderbolts bounced back from their defeat in pool play, to win 24-21 over the Uluinakau Babas. The local side was led by Australian Sevens skipper Ed Jenkins and James Stannard, as new Aussie sevens stars were unearthed.

In the Women’s competition, it was always going to come down to the two Aussie shadow women’s national sides. The Australia Pearls Green side ran riot over the Aussie Pearls Gold team 40-19 in an intense, but entertaining finale.

It was a tournament which featured sides from Japan, New Zealand, Fiji and host nation Australia. While many senior players stood out, it was the new boys in the Aussie squad that ‘stole the show’ putting their hands up for Dubai selection. In arguably the toughest tournament outside the World Rugby Sevens Series, the Central Coast Sevens (CC7’s) is world renowned, along with Fiji’s Coral Coast Sevens.

New Aussie Sevens Stars Unearthed

Aussie sevens stalwarts Jenkins and veteran Stannard led their young brigade well. Full of determination, skill and grit, they built well over the weekend. Beside them were series regulars Sam Myers, Tom Kingston and Stephan Van Der Walt.

In a tournament that unleashed a certain Henry Hutchison last year, in 2016 two boys put their names up. Simon Kennewell and Sam Caslick played a tournament they will always remember. They played liked season players to be honest, compared with some of the best exponents of the game from Fiji.

Big endorsement from Parahi

”I was super impressed with both Simon & Sam.”

”Simon hasn’t played a whole lot of sevens (7s) but you could see he has the potential to be a regular on the World Series. He is big for a young blok,e and had some of our best carries all weekend. I’m excited to see how he goes with a little more experience.” Jesse Parahi said told lastwordonrugby.com

”On the other hand, Sam has played a whole lot of 7s, just not with us. Not only did he slip into the side seamlessly after only a week of training, he was easily one of our best on the park. Silky skills and great game awareness. In my opinion, he certainly has the makings of a good 10. It would be great to see how he goes in the full-time program.”

Familiar name, familiar style

If the name Caslick rings a bell, then you know who he is related to. Sam is the brother of Aussie Women’s Sevens Gold Medal winner Charlotte Caslick. She is one of the best in the game, with her powerful defensive game and angled runs, which is a style often synonymous with the Oceania game from Fiji.

The lines she always chooses to run often results in tries, with Emma Tonegato and Elia Green the major benefactors. That must run in the family, as Sam mirrored those traits across the weekend.

With the departure of a bulk of the senior players, like Pama Fou and Cameron Clark, those voids needs filling. What a way to test these youngsters, but at the CC7’s against the best exponents of the game [Fijian sides] which had seven teams in the tournament.

Aussie Pearls Molding the Young and The Old

The reigning HSBC Women’s Sevens Series and Olympics Champions Australia used the tournament to test out new combinations. They mixed ‘the old with the new’ to gauge how they would fair. That mixture of youth and experience stood out, when both teams reached the final and retained their crown from last years tournament.

”With contracts up for grabs in November, it was all to play for with many showing more nerves then in Rio” Aussie Women’s 7s coach tim walsh said.

The Aussie Pearls composite sides were each successful on both days. The ‘Greens’ had Olympians Sharni Williams, twinkle-toed Emilee Cherry and the elusive, but aggressive Alicia Quirk. Also featuring were players who had featured in the series last season, like Dominique Du Toit, Georgie Friedrichs and Mahalia Murphy.

The Gold side on the other hand, had four Olympians within their ranks. Feisty Shannon Parry, speed merchant Emma Tonegato, the ‘general’ Chloe Dalton and the slick Charlotte Caslick. They also had young star Shenae Ciesiolka, who was part of the squad last season.

For LWOR, the outstanding players were Emma Sykes and Murphy, together with Ciesiolka. All will be fighting for a spot in that touring party to Dubai in December. With the focus shifting to the Sevens Rugby World Cup, the Commonwealth Games and then Tokyo 2020, the time is now to nurture new talent.

”Mahalia [Murphy] was really strong in attack, she provides good go forward for the team and beats first up defenders every time” Jesse Parahi. ”I’m really keen to see a bit more of Shenae [Ciesiolka] on the World Series’.

Tournament Ambassador and Aussie 7s thoughts

Current Australian sevens representative Jesse Parahi was quick to praise the tournament after another successful weekend.

“As always Craig & Co [Craig Morgan. CC7’s Tournament Coordinator] put on a great spectacle. It’s always tough to watch from the sidelines though, but it was really great to see the Aussie teams doing well. There are quite a few boys in the Aussie Development and NSW teams that are really putting their hands up for selection. It won’t be long till we see a few of them in the national side.

“Despite the decline (post Olympic cycle) in international teams in both Men’s and Women’s tournaments this year, I thought the standard of play was still by far the best domestic tournament I have been to. It was great to see so many spectators through the gates too, even though it rained on Saturday.”

Jesse’s Players of the Tournament

“I thought Sammy (Sam Myers, Aussie 7s star) was a standout for us, we really missed him at the Olympics. For a big bloke, he is really dynamic and is great in the air for restarts” Jesse Parahi commented.

“In the games I saw, I thought Emma Sykes was great, she’s quick, agile and showed some good skills.”

Craig Morgan confirmed those selection. “We thought Sam Meyers for Australia was strong. Uluinakau was strong across the park we can’t any individual from there it was a real team effort from them.

“In the Women’s event, the Japanese Women’s side had exceptional footwork. But we can’t go past the MVP Emma Sykes, who was brilliant in the final.”

Craig Morgan’s thoughts on the tournament:

”The 2016 UON Central Coast Sevens has been the best yet. Even with the wet weather, a great crowd turned out and witnessed plenty upsets. Ratu Filise tipping over Australia and the NSW 7s upsetting a powerful Daveta team–fantastic.”

LWOR asked Craig what fans can look for next year? “We will look to run the youth event yet again, as we received glowing feedback with teams already expressing interest. Same for the Men’s and Women’s events. Ben Ryan (ex-Fiji’s 7s Olympics winning coach) tweeted that it is the best sevens invitational tournament in the world. A very humbling compliment, which shows the quality and toughness of the tournament.”

All International sides now prepare for December

With the Dubai Sevens tournament only a month away, the next stop is in Fiji. The Oceania Sevens in November will see more of these players getting their chances to prove their worth.

Fighting for the honour of Oceania Sevens Champion, the men’s and women’s tournament is now combined, and set to open on Friday November 11. Australia, as well as Fiji and Samoa will be using this as a stepping stone toward Dubai.

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With so many quality tournaments to follow, the choice is wide. If you are a budding sevens player, make a date check out the Central Coast Sevens next season.

“Main Photo Credit”

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