2022-08-01 03:22:00

“The Golden Girls were not so golden.”

They are the words Charlotte Caslick said when she recalled her Tokyo Games experience before departing for Birmingham last month.

After joining the men’s side by being bumped out in the quarter-finals, Australia’s sevens team were caught up in an Olympic firestorm as the squads were smashed in the headlines for their unruly behaviour in the village and then on-board a flight back Down Under.

For Caslick, the fall from grace was startling as they went from the envy of the world in Rio to a supposedly run-of-the-mill side.

“We came home and we were in our quarantine camp up in Darwin and rugby was getting dragged through the mud a bit by media outlets around behaviour on planes and in the village,” she told foxsports.com.au.

“At times it was probably a little bit unfair.

“If we did a little bit better it probably would have helped that cause, but I guess that’s just sort of the way it all works out. If you are successful (on the field) people kind of (overlook things).

“It was a polar opposite to what I went through after Rio; the Golden Girls were not so golden.”

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Madison Ashby (L) is comforted by Charlotte Caslick (R) after being knocked out of the Olympics by Fiji in the quarter-finals in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Getty Images
Madison Ashby (L) is comforted by Charlotte Caslick (R) after being knocked out of the Olympics by Fiji in the quarter-finals in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

As Caslick admitted though, perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, the side simply weren’t firing.

The retirements of Alicia Lucas and Emilee Cherry following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the form concerns of Ellia Green and Shannon Parry, had left John Manenti’s side vulnerable.

While the potential in the next generation was immense, the likes of Maddison Levi, Madison Ashby and Sariah Paki had been afforded precious minutes to grow on the global stage.

Ellia Green was controversially dropped ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: Brett CostelloSource: News Corp Australia

Others like Green – one of the biggest weapons on the World Series for years and a huge personality in the group – were sensationally dropped. It was a decision that rocked the women’s game and left many questioning whether Manenti had made the right decision given the lack of potency and star power in the team. Their aura was simply no longer.

“It just wasn’t clicking for that group,” she said.

“Whether that was because some girls just held on too long, I guess their intentions for that tournament might have been different to some others and that’s disappointing as well.

“Like when you go into an Olympic Games, you sort of have to be on the same page and everyone has to have that common goal, whereas I don’t think we did.

“I think that ultimately kind of cost us in the end.”

Australia’s Tokyo disaster helped put Australia back on course for success. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

But amongst the sorry reality check, the foundations had been put in place for Australia’s comeback.

Just like the overhaul Fabien Galthie commenced with the French rugby team ahead of the 2019 World Cup, which sped up their transformation and now has Les Bleus as World Cup favourites for next year’s tournament, the tough introduction initiated by Manenti gave the next generation of Australian stars invaluable minutes in big games. 

Within months of their Olympic failure they were starting to blossom, with the investments starting to bear fruit.

“Well, look, obviously there’s an expectation around results performance,” Manenti said ahead of the Commonwealth Games, where he led Australia’s men’s team to a gut-wrenching fourth-placed finish after letting slip a big chance against South Africa in the semi-finals.

“With the girls, I really felt it was a situation that we were actually hitting the right path, there wasn’t a ridiculous shift post Olympics, we just stayed the course on what we were doing. 

“I invested heavily in young girls. 

“We had some girls at the back end of their careers, and that extra 12 months just made it too far for some and not soon enough for others.

“We worked really hard with those young girls and 12 months later, we’re not even 12 months later, three months later, they were on top of the world, and we won in Dubai back to back tournaments. Since then I think they’ve kicked on and done really well. 

“It was disappointing, but it was as much a timing thing that we probably got wrong, and obviously we didn’t know the Olympics were going to get postponed 12 months. If it wasn’t for that, we would have been in absolute superposition going forward and probably would have had a backline with Cherry, Quirk, Ellia Green and Charlotte Caslick and it probably would have been the backline 12 months earlier, but as it as it works you’re playing with Maddison Levi, Faith Nathan, Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea, who were all basically on debut or played one or two World Series events.

“You can see where they’ve gone in a very short amount of time, but the whole system was in place to perform; we planned for the future and we were well on to that, but we just didn’t get there.”

Australian sevens coach John Manenti made a series of big calls ahead of last year’s Olympics, including dropped Ellia Green. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Rugby Australia’s high performance review came as the women exploded back onto the world stage, taking out the opening two tournaments in Dubai.

RA board members and Wallabies greats Daniel Herbert and Phil Waugh ultimately came to the conclusion that the right people were there, but believed a switch of teams with Tim Walsh returning to the women’s program and Manenti switching to the men’s side was necessary to elevate their results.

Manenti, however, believes the women would have succeeded whatever conclusion RA reached.

“I know that both programs are in a really good position from what I did with the girls initially,” he said. 

“I know you know that either way, either way, both programs would have flourished because we’re both in good positions to do well.”

Fast forward eight months and the women’s team once again sit on top of the world, having smashed Fiji 22-12 to claim gold in Birmingham.

Caslick starred throughout the campaign and the former World Rugby player of the year is likely to claim that honour again after her incredible tournament.

The 27-year-old was unbelievable on both sides of the ball, while her breakdown work was unparalleled.

Meanwhile, the investment put into Levi, Ashby, Nathan and Lefau-Fakaosilea paid dividends, with all four having outstanding tournaments.

Even others like Sharni Williams, the 34-year-old Olympic gold medallist, rose to another level as she showed the benefit of having a bigger body in the middle to straighten the attack.

Their success comes not a second too soon, with the AFLW and NRLW heavily investing in women’s sport.

Australia celebrate their gold medal alongside podium finishers Fiji and New Zealand at Coventry Stadium on July 31, 2022. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

But as Emma Tonegato’s successful code switch showed this year, as the former gold medallist took out the Dally M Medal, the Australian women’s program remains first-class.

“To have NRLW and AFLW is so good for people, for sport, for women, and I encourage that to every degree,” Walsh said. 

“From a rugby sevens point of view, if you’ve got a program that is the world’s best, and it is, the athletes here are the best in the world physically and their resilience is immense and … the rewards are there for the right people. 

“When we started the program 10-years-ago, we had players coming in and they never even played before, so if you’ve got players that had a had a semi professional career with NRLW or having a three-month stint, or whatever it is, they’re already under a guise of

professionalism so they’re not they’re not starting from ground zero, they’re already up there.

“I think it’s exciting for sport, but for rugby sevens is that if we, if we want to talk to an NRLW player, and we think might they might fit in, then it’s like free recruitment for us that we can now watch and see who is playing, and then see if they if they want to play? Obviously vice-versa.”

And with a home Commonwealth Games in 2026 and the Brisbane Olympics in 2032, Rugby Australia has big tournaments to sell the game.

The gold in Birmingham just sold the program even more.

#Australia #win #rugby #sevens #Birmingham #Charlotte #Caslick #Ellia #Green #John #Manenti #video

Source by [graycupnews.com]


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