By Leslie Omaro, Games News Service
PORT MORESBY, July 9 – Australia opened the women’s rugby 7s tournament on Wednesday at the Port Moresby 2015 Pacific Games with three convincing wins to send a big message to any other countries with hopes of taking a gold medal.
The Australians defeated Fiji, New Caledonia and Tahiti on day one of competition, and coach Tim Walsh is positive about his team’s chance of winning the title despite using Port Moresby 2015 as an opportunity to blood some youngsters as well.
“We came here to get a lot of minutes and settle in some inexperienced players,” Walsh said. “But we came here to win a gold medal.”
“As long as we improve every single game, set our objectives before we play and as long as we achieve those and do our best, then I will be happy and I think we can end up winning a gold medal as well.”
The Australian squad in Port Moresby includes eight debutants in a 12-woman squad, including the youngest team member Laura Waldie who celebrated her 18th birthday just before the first game of the tournament against Fiji.
“We had her (Waldie’s) eighteenth birthday yesterday,” Walsh said. “We broke protocol and had a cake before we played, a special eighteenth birthday party but they each only had a small piece.”
Also using the 2015 Pacific Games as part of its preparations towards the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Australian opened its campaign with a potentially tricky match against Fiji, but tries to other debutants Tanisha Stanton and Georgina Friedrichs helped the team to a 26-7 win and settled early tournament nerves.
“I thought we had a really great game against Fiji,” Walsh said. “They are in the world series and are a very competitive team. We’ve got eight girls on debut in this tournament, and obviously they are very excited and very nervous, but I thought they stood up and played quite well.”
However Walsh was not so happy with the 22-5 victory over New Caledonia.
“In game two, obviously we got the result we were looking for but it was a pretty sub-standard performance,” Australia’s coach said. “We got pretty sloppy with the ball in hand and turned it over, but at the same time New Caledonia were pretty pumped up and they pressured us and forced the turn overs.”
“As a coach, I can’t be too disappointed having two wins from two but if you look at our performances, I thought that the second one was below what we expect from each other.”
Whatever message Walsh passed on to his squad before Wednesday’s third game, it obviously worked, and Australia ran riot against Tahiti in a 59-0 hiding.
Next up on Thursday Australia will face Tonga, Samoa and hosts PNG in their remaining pool matches before the medal rounds on Friday July 10.