To say that the Aussie Men’s Sevens Rugby side fared poorly during the 2016 Rio Olympics might be a bit of an understatement, they failed to medal and were it not for the gold medal winning women’s side, Australia would not have lived up to its reputation as a world rugby force.
This would seem an ideal spot for us to launch into a tirade about how the NRL, for one, is used for player development, only to see those players bolt to some other country, such as Fiji, for the Olympic games.
Much could be said about the NBA and Olympic basketball, but we are feeling sanguine today, so we will abandon the tirade and simply report that Australia is shaking its list up by naming eight uncapped players to the Aussie sevens side for the upcoming Oceania Championship in Fiji.
On the surface, it seems like a bold gamble, but the gamble seems to be paying dividends, as the play by the green youngsters ahead of the Oceania event has produced positive results, such that the Aussie side is being tipped to possibly produce an unprecedented upset.
Sevens Coach Andy Friend is taking the long view, resting some of his big guns for the Suva tournament in order to keep them fresh for the World Series in Dubai in December.
Only Dylan Pietsch, Brandon Quinn, Sam Croke and Thomas Connor, who can collectively claim 11 caps, eight of the 12-man squad will be players without previous experience.
Friend’s captain for the Suva meeting is uncapped Matthew McTaggart, who plays his footy for Eastern Suburbs.
The Aussies will go against rival teams from Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa, with each of those sides fielding some stars, such as Jerry Tuwai, Apisai Domilolai, Scott Curry, Vatemo Ravouvou, Joe Wegger and Tim Mikkelson.
Friend will be absent from Fiji, so the Australian side will be guided by assistant coach Jarred Hodges, who said, “I think we are going to pleasantly surprise a few people. This group of guys worked hard up at the Central Coast, as a young group they played together up there and got a lot of confidence out of that.We are starting to see the results pay off.”