Bond University has been named as one of just eight universities nationwide to take part in the inaugural women’s rugby National University Sevens Series.
Joining Bond in the competition will be teams from the University of Canberra, University of Adelaide, University of Tasmania, University of New England, Macquarie University, University of Queensland and Griffith University.
The National University Sevens Series will involve four tournaments, with the first one scheduled to kick off in August. Members of the Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens squad will be divided up between the teams which will each comprise a mix of students and non-students (with 50% students being the squad minimum and no on-field quota to be employed).
Bond University Rugby Club’s Director of Rugby, Sean Hedger said the announcement was great news not just for Bond but for the broader Gold Coast and Northern NSW rugby community.
“This is the first ever national Sevens women’s series designed in Australia and we’re proud to be part of it,” he said.
“The Bond University Sevens team will represent the entire Gold Coast and Northern New Souths Wales region, and give our local players the chance to play alongside and against members of the national squad, providing an ideal and much-needed pathway for young emerging talent who have aspirations to play for Australia.”
According to the ARU, the Australia-wide spread of the universities in the new competition reflects the growing demand for women’s Rugby Sevens across the country, especially following the gold medal efforts of the Qantas Australian Women’s Sevens team at the Rio Olympics, which prompted a 33% increase in female club Sevens participation in 2016 (after a 33% increase in 2015).
World champion rugby Sevens player and Coach Ben Gollings was recently appointed by Bond University and Sports Gold Coast to the position of Head Coach of the Women’s Sevens team and Regional Sevens Coordinator, in a bid to spearhead the growth and development of Women’s Sevens on the Gold Coast.
Gollings, who is based at Bond University Rugby Club, said the Gold Coast was already home to a lot of great women players, including a number of Reds players.
“Introducing a new national competition will give our Gold Coast rugby players a home, and the opportunity to play more often and at a higher level, which is what is needed to become more skilled and more competitive internationally,” he said.
“Our aim is to help develop the sport at a community level by encouraging more girls and women to participate in Sevens. From this solid base, we’ll be in a strong position to identify talent and create a pathway for their development as they leave school and look to become elite professional players.”
Australian General Manager of High Performance for the ARU, Ben Whitaker said: “This is a really exciting step for women’s Sevens in Australia. The women’s university Sevens series will fill a gap in the existing women’s Sevens pathway. The best Sevens players in the country will take part, so it’ll be fantastic to watch. It will be an elite domestic competition with a national footprint, which will act as a stepping stone towards national selection.
“With more regular training and more representative-level games available, the next generation of Sevens stars will be able to refine their skills and push for selection in the full-time national squad,” he said.
Australian Women’s Sevens Head Coach Tim Walsh said: “This Series will fall at a time when our contracted squad members will be available to play, which means the up-and-coming talent will have the opportunity to play with world class athletes, which will only improve their skills.
“We’re really looking forward to seeing the benefits of the Series, and we believe it will have a huge impact on the growth of women’s rugby Sevens in Australia. Most of our Olympic players didn’t come from a rugby background but with this new pathway available, younger players will have a clear goal and be motivated to strive for selection in these teams to develop their skills at a higher level.”
CEO of Australian University Sport Don Knapp said: "The advent of the Women's National Sevens series is a ground breaking development for university sport in Australia, and a major step forward for women's sport generally. This program will provide a great opportunity for elite, female student- athletes to pursue a dual career education and at the same time fill a significant gap in the Women's Sevens developmental pathway."