Australia’s women’s rugby sevens team go a long way to Commonwealth Games gold

It might have been 6 a.m. on the Gold Coast, but the champagne was already popping at the Levi’s.

“It’s never too early to start drinking when your two daughters win gold at the Commonwealth Games,” said Maddi Levi, after she and her sister Teagan helped the Aussies win gold in rugby sevens.

“I am on [mum will] be on it all day, party.”

The Levis spoke with their family back home after the dominating 22-12 win over Fiji at Coventry Stadium.

“They certainly had tears but a lot of swearing!” said Levi.

“We must stand side by side [on the dais] so it’s quite sentimental. We won a medal at the Commonwealth Games, not many people can do that in their lifetime, let alone have their sister side by side. »

Maddi Levi had a great tournament for the Australians.(Getty Images: David Rogers)

Hard road pays off for the Pearls

It’s been a long way back to the top of the podium for the Australians, since winning the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Four years ago on the Gold Coast, they lost to New Zealand in the decider.

Then, there was the loss to Fiji in the quarter-finals at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

Since then, the team has regenerated and started the climb back to where they had become accustomed, after winning the World Series.

In Birmingham, they stumbled in the pool stage, with a loss to Fiji.

Two Australian women's rugby sevens players are close to tears on the pitch after losing a game at the Olympics.
Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea (L) and Maddi Levi (R) were dejected after Australia’s Olympic loss, but now they and their team are back on top.(Getty Images: Dan Mullan)

But they got quickly their groove back with victory over New Zealand in the semis.

“I think the team ran out today knowing they weren’t going to lose,” coach Tim Walsh said.

The team thrived on the crowd’s incredible energy – there was a wall of noise, and plenty of enthusiastic karaoke renditions of classics blasting over the PA.

“We’ve gone from having no crowds to minimal crowds all year,” Levi said.

“So just having that atmosphere really helps push you over the line and helps when your legs are dying and your lungs are dying, that’s for sure.”

Sharni Williams is one of the few members of the ‘original’ brigade left in the women’s sevens program and is excited by the new talent coming through.

“Just seeing them play free footy and footy without fears, phenomenal,” Williams said.

“You look at Australian sport at the moment, look at women’s sport, and there’s so much contention for different sports.

“But by winning a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, or going to the Olympics, that’s what’s enticing players to come and play rugby.”

It worked for the Levi sisters, who were also being courted by Aussie rules and rugby league.

And Maddi now wants to help lure others.

Four Australian women's rugby sevens players have a group hug in mid-pitch after winning Commonwealth Games gold.
Australia’s future looks bright in women’s rugby sevens.(Getty Images: Richard Heathcote )

“When I first started, I aspired to be like Charlotte Caslick and the likes of Ellia Green,” she said.

“Now that I’m in this role, I’d love to inspire the younger generation. The opportunities you get, you can’t get with most sports.”

It’s also been quite a journey for the coach, Walsh.

He re-joined the women’s team last year, after spending a couple of years leading the men.

And he’s now preparing his succession plan featuring one of the greats of the sport.

“I started [the women’s program] 10 years ago, and we built it from the ground up,” he said.

“Emilee Cherry is the assistant coach and she knows exactly how I work and my vision for the future, so she’s a winner. I think she’s had two tournaments, she’s had two wins. So as a as a coach, that’s a good sign for the future.”

Australian men finish fourth

The Australian men lost to New Zealand 26-12 in the bronze medal game.

They were overwhelmed and never really challenged the New Zealanders.

“Unfortunately I don’t think we put in a performance worthy of winning tonight,” said coach John Manenti.

“Obviously we fired a few shots, but until we run those plays we’re not going to win big games against the top teams.”

Player Josh Turner is hoping to bounce back quickly for the final World Series event in Los Angeles and then the World Cup in September.

“We have a team full of 20-year-olds who are crazy to think that another year under their belt, another Commonwealth Games, we’re going in the right direction, just putting it all together.”

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