Australian women’s sevens coach Tim Walsh is backing his batch of emerging stars to ride a wave of momentum all the way to Commonwealth Games glory after claiming a first World Sevens crown in four years.
Australia’s drought-breaking title also featured a first triumph over New Zealand since 2018 and coincided with the introduction to the international stage of exciting youngsters like Maddison Levi and Teagan Levi to ride on the coat tails of Australia’s talismanic leader Charlotte Caslick.
Caslick underlined her status as a bona fide global superstar with the player-of-the-series gong and Walsh credits the 27-year-old and her 2016 Rio Olympics gold medallists with inspiring a whole new generation of players like the code-hopping Levi sisters.
“Maddi and Teagan are very different to each other but the athletic prowess and the determination that both of them show is awesome,” Walsh told AAP on Thursday.
“Then you look at the impact of the team of 2015- 2016 to change perceptions and attract these girls to play rugby and it’s all coming to fruition now.
“We’ve got photos up in our team room of Maddi and Teagan as 15-year-olds getting autographs of Alicia Quirk and Charlotte and now they’re here playing with them.
“The Olympics is a massive catalyst but they wouldn’t have even taken up the sport if they didn’t see Quirky and Charlotte running down the Olympics with fake tans and ribbons as lean, mean fighting machines.
“They thought ‘OMG, this game’s a game for girls’.”
Teagan has no problem revealing she’s idolised Caslick since being poached from AFLW, like older sister Maddi, by Rugby Australia’s sevens program as a multi-talented sporting teenager on the Gold Coast.
“I was lucky enough to get a pair of shorts from her at one of the open training sessions,” she said.
“Once ‘Mads’ and I started coming to training here, she was a big influence on our lives.
“We were lucky enough to live with her at one stage and now she’s like a sister to us, like a third sister, and today we wouldn’t be where we are without her.”
After Australia lost the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal match to New Zealand in extra time, Walsh said the renewal of the trans-Tasman rivalry was perfect ahead of the Birmingham edition in August.
“It’s brilliant,” he said.
“There’s no better team to play in rugby but the rivalry that we’ve had over the last 10 years has been of epic proportions and been very well known around the sporting landscape.
“So it’s perfect and having won the World Series and won one and lost one against them, it sort of pumps up the story.”