These facts will leave you even more in awe of Australia's women's rugby sevens team.

On Tuesday morning, Australia’s women’s rugby team beat New Zealand 24-17 to win the first ever Olympic gold medal in the sport.

For many, it might have been the first game of women’s rugby they ever watched. Perhaps the first game they’d taken seriously. And it was impossible not to – the sheer skill of the women was simply undeniable.

They were fast and strong and fearless.

The game was tense and exciting, with no sign from either team of backing down.

It was one of those moments of glory Australia looks forward to at the Olympics.

Best day of my life!

A photo posted by Charlotte Caslick (@charlottecaslick) on


But if you take a deeper look into the rugby sevens squad, the win (and the talent on the field) was even more remarkable than it first appeared.

For starters, at the time of the most recent (2012) Olympics, the women’s sevens team didn’t exist. Most of the women didn’t even have a background in rugby.

Ellia Green, who scored the third try of the final, was originally planning on running the 100m at the Olympics. But coach Tim Walsh recruited her for the rugby team, and the rest, as they say, is history. Post continues after gallery. 


Captain Sharni Williams was originally a hockey player, and even represented Australia in hockey at the 2010 World Cup. Chloe Dalton started as a basketballer, playing for the Sydney Flames in the WNBL. Charlotte Caslick, Evania Pelite, Alicia Quirk, Emilee Cherry and Gemma Etheridge are all former touch football players, and Shannon Parry and Emma Tonegato come from rugby and rugby league.



As many male players will attest, it’s not easy to go from rugby league or even rugby (with 13 and 15 player sides) to the sevens format. But these women have adjusted to the game seamlessly.

Their athleticism can’t be overstated. The team’s strength and conditioning coach says the fastest women “can hit speeds of 9.2 metres per second, or just over 33km/h; and can cover 10 metres from a standing start in 1.6 seconds and 20 metres in 2.85 seconds.”

“In an average game of 14 minutes athletes can cover 1600 metres and in a 20 minute final they may cover 2400 metres.”

In one tournament, players cover about 10km, and in a training week, they average 20km.

They’re also incredibly strong. Many of the women can squat twice their body weight and deadlift 2.5 times their body weight. One player in particular, Ellia Green, can lift 200kg.

My Aussie sevens sisters always encouraging me to better myself and be my best #gettndemgainz

A video posted by Ellia Tiriseyani Green (@elliagreen) on


But many of the women play strong roles both on and off the field. One of the players, Nicole Beck, juggles a full-time contract with the national rugby sevens with her role as a full-time mum to her three-year-old daughter Sophie.

Speaking to the Rugby Union Players’ Association earlier this year, Beck described what her typical day looks like.

“Sometimes we start training before she starts day-care so she’ll come with me to training initially and hang out while we do skills training, and then I will duck off to drop her to day-care and head back in time for our team meeting and field session.

“Then we have gym in the afternoon and some more skills work, and then I head straight from training to pick her up and head home. And on Wednesday, she comes to training with me for the full day!”

Nicole Beck with daughter Sophie. Image supplied.
Nicole Beck on being in the number 1 ranked team in women’s rugby sevens.

Several of the women have qualifications and work outside their rugby union careers. For example, captain Sharni Williams works as a qualified mechanic in Canberra, and Gemma Etheridge is a qualified radiographer. 

Many of the players completely defy stereotypes. While it might seem like rugby is in Fiji-born Ellia Green's blood, the 23-year-old was adopted and raised in Australia by her Polish mother and English father. She says that while a lot of her rugby idols are in the Fijian men's team, it's her special relationship with her mother that's brought her to where she is.

Speaking to SBS, she said "I was adopted from day one in Fiji. My mum believes we were destined to be together. I think the opportunities she's given me in life - it has been such a blessing."

  We just made history my girls ❤️   A photo posted by Ellia Tiriseyani Green (@elliagreen) on


"I wouldn't be where I'm at, I don't know if I'd be playing rugby: I don't know if I was in Fiji what would have happened."

While we are surely yet to hear the full extent of the complex and nuanced stories behind Australia's women's Rugby Sevens team, what we do know already is incredibly inspiring.

These are women who rival the men in terms of their strength and speed, and who balance a vast array of other roles with their place on Australia's rugby team.

Perhaps one of the most exciting parts of this story is the extent to which women's rugby is growing. At present, it's the fastest growing sport in the world, with 500,000 new female players across the world joining every year.

The coverage of today's win will no doubt inspire young girls in Australia and elsewhere to participate, and having more women and girls enthused by what their body can do and what they can accomplish as a team, can only be a good thing.

Feature Image via Instagram @elliagreen.