Mary’s Wonder Women: The Pearls come home to Sydney

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    Flashback to 2009. An announcement was made that rugby sevens would become an Olympic sport, set to make its debut in 2016 at Rio.

    It was at this point that preparations began in Australia to not only feature men’s and women’s teams in that Olympics, but also to make sure that these teams were successful.

    The Australian Rugby Union began looking for talent. They scoured the country, looked to junior talent pools and even looked to other sports like rugby league, touch football and netball, eventually writing to thousands of women asking if they wanted to participate in a trial.

    From there the seeds were planted which would later grow and develop into the Aussie Pearls – the world’s first ever gold medal Aussie 7s team.

    The Pearls are a good example of what can happen when athletes are made professional and given the opportunity to completely focus on their craft. The team were made professional back in 2014 and centralised at Narrabeen. The central focus – to bring home gold at Rio.

    In contrast to many other female athletes, these women did not have to worry about how they would pay to get to tournaments or have to worry about taking time off work to compete. Many juggled additional commitments like families, university and work but the boost that being a professional squad gave them was significant.

    You all know the rest of the story. How they went on to become World Series Champions in 2016 and then went on to Rio where they defeated New Zealand in the gold medal match 24-17. You all know the stars of that squad – like Ellia Green, Sharni Williams, Alicia Quirk, Shannon Parry and Charlotte Caslick.

    Australian rugby 7s player Charlotte Caslick runs the ball at the Sydney 7s

    (Karen Watson)

    These women helped to change the Australian sporting landscape forever and their success had far reaching consequences for the rugby landscape too.

    Last year a University sevens tournament was announced last year and Rugby Australia has now introduced pay parity between the men’s and women’s squad in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement signed earlier this year.

    Plenty has changed for the team since that gold medal at Rio.

    There has been the inevitable come down from the gold medal win and plenty of new faces introduced to the squad like Cassie Staples, Dominique du Toit and Emma Sykes.

    This is the next generation of women which will represent our country at the Commonwealth Games and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. No doubt more talent will continue to be unearthed too given the strength of 7s pathways.

    If you haven’t had the chance to see these women in action – you have an opportunity right now.

    Starting today and all through this long weekend, the Sydney 7s are happening.

    This is the first time in a World Series that the men’s and women’s tournaments have been completely integrated and it’s also my first time at the tournament too.

    This will be the last time that Tim Walsh coaches this squad at the Sydney tournament, announcing earlier this year that he will be stepping down from his role as head coach at the conclusion of the Commonwealth Games.

    The Pearls are in action today – their first game is against Spain at 11.50am, then Papua New Guinea at 2.34pm and then France at 5.18pm.

    I hope to see plenty of you out there supporting one of my favourite national teams.

    WNBL
    What a stunning finale to the 2017-2018 WNBL season with the Townsville Fire being crowned premiers for the third time in four years in front of a sold out crowd at Townsville Stadium.

    The WNBL Finals Series is contested as a best out of three. In Game 1, the Fire beat the Melbourne Boomers 69-64, in the second game the Boomers bounced back with a one point win (58-57) and then in the final game the Fire won comprehensively by 70-57.

    There was one woman that everyone was talking about though – that woman is Suzy Batkovic.

    Suzy is a three time Olympian that was omitted from the Opals squad ahead of the Rio Olympics. But she has certainly proven this season that her best basketball is not behind her.

    In game three Suzy scored 28 points, including 13 rebounds. She was also named regular season MVP and was awarded the Rachael Sporn Medal as the MVP of the grand final series.

    The Fire are a very good example of one of my favourite sayings about sport from Lucy Zelic – ‘if you love a sport, you will love it no matter who is playing’.

    As a team, the Fire have been exceptionally successful on the court and as a result, have been able to galvanise their local community. Who cares whether it is men or women playing, as long as the quality of what they are doing is there.

    The team had a dominant season with a 14-7 record, defeating the reigning premiers, the Sydney University Flames to book their place in the grand final.

    It’s been a good year for women’s basketball – returning to our television screens thanks to Fox Sports.

    It’s also been a big year for Suzy who has now been recalled into the Opals squad ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

    Let the countdown to the Commonwealth Games and the next WNBL season begin.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (23)

    • January 26th 2018 @ 11:04am
      Muzzo said | January 26th 2018 @ 11:04am | ! Report

      Interesting read Mary, but really, it’s not the first time that the womens World Series event, has been held at a World Series tournament. Did you look at Dubai?Not only this season, but other series season’s as well.
      Yes I to reckon, that it was a great effort to win gold in Rio, but it must be remembered, that it was the first & only time the event, has been played.
      As for them training in Narrabeen, they did a lot of their training with the men’s Sevens players, who have been playing the World Series Tournaments for, since it’s inception, over 16 or 17 years ago. The women, have have a far better success rate than the men, due to the fact, they have at least won a World Series title, in which their tournament, has only been operational, for approximately 5 years so.
      As it was, it was the Kiwi’s that picked up the major awards at the annual, World Rugby awards night, late last year.

      • January 26th 2018 @ 12:17pm
        Phil said | January 26th 2018 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

        Not quite sure of the points you are trying to make,Muzzo.What is the relevance of “it was the first and only time the event has been played”.Also,why bring up the Kiwis winning the major awards?Not sure what that has to do with the Aussie women’s sevens team.

        • January 26th 2018 @ 12:35pm
          P2R2 said | January 26th 2018 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

          provides a perspective about how good or not so good they are when measured up against the NZers….

          • January 26th 2018 @ 4:51pm
            Muzzo said | January 26th 2018 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

            Have a look P2R2, the Kiwi’s are not yet at their full potential, with their young squad. OK, they won at the Cape, but there is room for improvement, that will come in time. In this game of Sevens, injuries can be very severe on squads.

        • January 26th 2018 @ 4:46pm
          Muzzo said | January 26th 2018 @ 4:46pm | ! Report

          Phil, did you even read what Mary had posted? Obviously not. She quoted tat this series in Sydney was the first time in a World Series, that the mens & womens teams had been completely integrated. Check it out, as that statement was wrong.
          Then if you care to read on, there was also mention, of the Rio effort by the women along with the mention of their solitary World Series title. Is that too hard to understand? . Like the Aussie womens team, is involved with playing other teams, on the circuit, & at the end of each year, World Rugby, has their presentations to those they select, as being the best. Just like Perry Backer, being the mens player of the year, for last season.
          So mate, can I suggest you read what has been written by the Editor, before making your half hearted assumptions, please?

          • Roar Guru

            January 26th 2018 @ 7:15pm
            jeznez said | January 26th 2018 @ 7:15pm | ! Report

            That 2017 award for team of the year is to the NZ Women’s XV though isn’t it?

            Frankly I’m not surprised the Aussie Women’s 7s didn’t win that award for their winning of the World Series and Olympic gold in 2016

            • January 26th 2018 @ 8:41pm
              Muzzo said | January 26th 2018 @ 8:41pm | ! Report

              Pretty sure the Aussie women were acknowledged, by winning the world Series, back then, but World Rugby has nothing to do with the administration & running, of Olympic Sports.

          • January 29th 2018 @ 1:07pm
            Phil said | January 29th 2018 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

            Muzzo,I did actually read the article and I did not question your comment about the men/women being in same event,so maybe you should read my post.
            My question was your comment about Rio being the first and only time that event was held and the relevance of that statement?Of course it was the first time it had been held.
            Apologies for the comment about the awards,though,as I thought you were talking about the overall rugby awards eg Barrett and co.
            Mate,you are one of the most balanced Kiwi contributors,so I was very surprised when you seemed to be downplaying the Aussie women’s 7’s team,which seems out of character for you.That was the reason for my reply.No offence.

            • January 29th 2018 @ 1:25pm
              Muzzo said | January 29th 2018 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

              Thanks Phil, but in truth I wasn’t downplaying the Australian women mate. in fact what they achieved over the weekend was exceptional, as was the men. The men IMO, really need to start being a little more consistent, as they have never won the World Series. Perhaps that could happen now, as their win in the final, over an exceptional Blitzbokke team, was brilliant. Cheers

    • Roar Guru

      January 26th 2018 @ 12:52pm
      jeznez said | January 26th 2018 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

      Great news that the Womens event has been integrated – I was unimpressed that our Gold medal winners were playing matches outside the main venue last year.

      We’ve had integrated series here in HK for things like the Asia 7s would be great if they do it for the HK 7s leg of the world series. Got my tickets lined up for that

      • January 26th 2018 @ 8:43pm
        Muzzo said | January 26th 2018 @ 8:43pm | ! Report

        From experience, the World Rugby HK Seven’s Series, is for men only. They usually have 24 or possibly 28 teams playing over the three days.

        • Roar Guru

          January 27th 2018 @ 12:32pm
          jeznez said | January 27th 2018 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

          The additional teams are playing in the World Series qualifier tournament. Men and Women are in action they just aren’t integrated. Hence my comment that it “would be great if”

    • January 26th 2018 @ 10:11pm
      Peter said | January 26th 2018 @ 10:11pm | ! Report

      Mary, thanks for your coverage. What’s the story with Chloe’s Dalton?

      • January 27th 2018 @ 11:00pm
        BackInBlack said | January 27th 2018 @ 11:00pm | ! Report

        Hey Mary
        Don’t you think it’s so sexist how female rugby players don’t earn as much as males ??
        I’m like sooo upset that the gals earn less than Sonny Bill & Israel Folau.
        You just give me three good reasons (apart from public profile, performance & revenue generation) why these girls aren’t multimillionaires and I will burn my sister’s bra.
        #MeToo

        • January 28th 2018 @ 8:58am
          Peter said | January 28th 2018 @ 8:58am | ! Report

          If you’re the sort who likes playing with your sister’s bra, you (and the public generally) have more problems than Rugby incomes.

        • January 28th 2018 @ 2:49pm
          1st&10 said | January 28th 2018 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

          Basic economics. It’s a consumer based sport which requires bums on seats. Only a very small percentage of said consumers care about female rugby.

          The female game is no better than club 5th grade

    • January 26th 2018 @ 10:35pm
      1st&10 said | January 26th 2018 @ 10:35pm | ! Report

      Still going on with this professional “woman’s sport”?

      The three set grunt a go-go woman tennis matches provides enough evidence to suggest this lefty ‘equality’ Falsehood is just that, false

      • January 27th 2018 @ 12:26am
        Peter said | January 27th 2018 @ 12:26am | ! Report

        You really are a sad little prat, aren’t you?

        • January 27th 2018 @ 1:55pm
          1st&10 said | January 27th 2018 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

          And I bet you do NOT watch female grunt tennis and female beach volley ball for the skill and talent

          Little? Since when was 6foot2 little?

          • January 27th 2018 @ 5:20pm
            Peter said | January 27th 2018 @ 5:20pm | ! Report

            Actually I don’t watch either tennis or beach volleyball, men’s or women’s, since they just don’t interest me. Beaćh volleyball? Overtly sexist until they insist the men wear only budgie smugglers with 2-inch sides.
            Oh, and “little” in this context has nothing to do with physical stature, although one might reasonably infer that this is your sole point of reference in relation to sport.

        • January 28th 2018 @ 2:45pm
          1st&10 said | January 28th 2018 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

          Triggered ?

    • January 27th 2018 @ 9:43am
      Big Daddy said | January 27th 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

      Mary,
      What’s happened with mahalia Murphy.
      Why is she not playing this event.

    • January 28th 2018 @ 4:30pm
      Working Class Rugger said | January 28th 2018 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

      The perfect tournament from the Pearls. A completely clean sheet over the three days. I agree with Walsh’s assessment that this event should be the proving ground for the Women’s circuit to be completely integrated with the men’s and run alongside one another over 10-12 events.

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