Aussie women to face internal trial for Sydney spots

Womens - Sydney
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Play well or miss out on a chance to play in Sydney.

That’s the simple mission each of the the Aussie Sevens women faces when they face off in a series of internal trials on Friday.

With the Aussies heavily affected by injuries in Colorado and Dubai, coach John Manenti leant on the next generation to fill the void in those two opening tournaments.

Now, as players like co-captain Shannon Parry and Rio gold medallist Emma Tonegato try to prove their fitness for Sydney, it’s up to each player to show their worth.

Parry, who is on track to return in Sydney from a syndesmosis injury, said she couldn’t rely on her reputation to get her a spot.

“There's no doubt that John Manenti's definitely set the platform there that it's (everyone) up for selection so if you don't perform, you don't get picked,” she said.

“It's that simple - it doesn't matter who you are, if you're the new kid on the block, if you're 10 years older, it doesn't matter.

“That's the reality of where the squad is at this point in time, you've got 18-year-olds up for selection, you've got 28-year-olds up for selection as well.

“He's definitely set the benchmark there that if you don't perform, you're not going to get picked, so that's where it is.”

There'll be some stiff competition for spots in the Sydney 7s. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThe Aussies passed up the possibility of playing in a Fast Four competition in Hamilton a week out from the tournament and won’t be sending a team to the Coral Coast 7s, confident their intra-team competition will be enough to harden them for Sydney, with more jostling for positions than in recent months.

Manenti said they were keen to keep the women on home soil as much as they could as well as limiting the risk of injury ahead of Sydney.

“Well there’s a couple of fronts,” he said.

“It gives us a little bit more time without travel and things like that, and when we made the decision around Hamilton many months ago we didn’t know we’d have the injuries and different things.

“We probably wouldn’t have played the internal trial normally, but (with) a couple of girls being out and a few girls coming back and a few girls played in the tournament who put their hands up we’ve actually got genuinely tough decisions to make, and I think the best way to work out who wants it most is pit them against each other and see how they go."

Manenti said that competition for spots in the side was unprecedented and the competitive desire was something he relished seeing from his team.

Through their golden 2015-16 season, the starting team was often settled but with the emergence of some younger players and the injuries the team has had to handle in recent times.

“I love it (seeing that contest). I think it’s unreal,” he said.

“I think it’s one thing that we haven’t had whether it be because of injury or just that top group were so far ahead of everyone else.

“I think it’s a really important thing to have a squad is people competing for positions and there’s very few girls that can say they’re out and out guaranteed to be there and that’s because we have competition coming through.

“We’ve got 20 girls training at the moment which is the most we’ve ever had fit, well, ready to have a crack and I think that’s a great thing for the program now but also longevity wise it means we’re doing some good things around our pathways and development pathways.

Shannon Parry is hoping to return for the Sydney 7s. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart WalmsleyThe Aussies are optimistic about the chances of co-captain Parry overcoming an ankle injury to play in Sydney, though there are still some hurdles she needs to clear before having the final tick.

“She’s been around the block a few times and she knows that she has to do to get there, so I think she’ll give herself the best shot of performing,” Manenti said.

“She also knows that she has to perform because some of the girls and young girls that played in Dubai were very impressive and so it’s not going to be a given, she’ll have to earn her spot like everyone else in the team.”

Parry is back in complete training but said contact work would be her biggest obstacle to a Sydney appearance.

"The contact, I did it getting tackled so just getting my confidence back with that, actually being tackled, and just getting caught in those awkward positions again because obviously once it happens once you're obviously in the back of your mind, it's like "Oh, that could happen again"," she said.

"So just getting back into the physicality of the bone on bone, obviously eight weeks out of contact's a long time to get back into it, so just working hard on those little things and making sure I'm 110 per cent for Sydney."

The Sydney 7s kicks off on Friday February 1, running until Sunday February 3 at Spotless Stadium. Buy tickets here.