As Australian sevens star Emma Tonegato continues to thrive on the world stage, a host of Illawarra sevens players are gearing up for their own opportunity to compete against the world’s best.
The Illawarra Rugby Union will send two sevens teams to Hong Kong for the annual All Girls Rugby Tournament, the biggest girls rugby sevens competition in the world. The event will be contested on the 30th and 31st of March.
Stella Casie took up rugby less than a year ago and instantly fell in love with the welcoming nature of the sport.
The 15-year-old former oztag player is looking forward to traveling to Hong Kong with her teammates to play the sport she loves.
“Compared to other sports, it’s so much more friendly,” Casie said. “You still get hit hard but they’ll help you up.
“With rugby you still get to play with the ball, in oztag all you do is tagging. With sevens you get to actually tackle the opposition, so it’s heaps more physical.
“The Hong Kong tour is really exciting. It’s a whole new experience, and we’re looking forward to playing other countries. We hope the New Zealand teams aren’t absolutely massive.”
Such is the rapid growth of the sport of sevens, the association was forced to hold trials for the competition, with girls coming from as far as Canberra to try out.
Under 16 and under 19 girls squads were ultimately selected. Twenty-one girls, along with coaches, managers and family members, will travel to Hong Kong for the competition.
Manager Lusii Tanevesi said the girls have been working incredibly hard to get to where they are and both sides have a shot at going deep in the tournament at King’s Park.
“These girls just want to play rugby,” Tanevesi said. “Now they’ve been given the opportunity to play overseas and play in one of the biggest girls tournaments in the world.
“The girls have been training real hard week in, week out. The under 16s went up to Cronulla for an under 18s fives competition and made the grand final.”