11 September 2023
The Aussie Women’s Rugby 7s hosted a community training session while on their inaugural camp at the AIS European Training Centre (ETC) in Italy.
The local community came together at the Rugby Varese club to watch more than 50 junior players train with the star-studded Aussie team who have been busy preparing for their upcoming season and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Dual Olympian Sharni Williams, who debuted for the team in 2012, said that engaging with the community and sharing a passion for rugby reminds her of why she started playing.
“Whether you can speak the same language or not, you can still see the light in people's eyes, the love that they have for the game,” Williams said.
She said even though the president of Rugby Varese was speaking Italian, the translation of him talking about rugby being his family, that this was his place, “made me feel whole”.
“It gave me that sense of rugby is for everyone, which is what I try to display every time I go out there on the field,” the Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist said.
The “Train with Champions” session involved groups rotating between several stations which targeted specific skills through a variety of drills and game play.
Williams said that the best part was being tackled by one of the kids, teaching them some techniques and seeing their improvement that they had.
"I get a massive kick out of that.”
Forward Demi Hayes said the team had relished being able to have an impact on younger generations and always tried to inspire participation within the sport.
“We just love seeing kids have fun and playing the game that we love playing as well,” she said.
Head Coach Tim Walsh MBA GAICD got involved alongside the players offering both coaching and translation assistance. He said that community engagement opportunities highlighted the impact the team can have.
“Sport has so many benefits and when athletes are in a position of notoriety, as world champions or Olympic gold medallists, they can have a real impact on other people's lives,” he said.
“As much as the community get something out of it, I think the players absolutely enjoy it. The importance of healthy living, sport, camaraderie, and teamwork is something that we put a lot of emphasis on no matter where we go.”
ETC Lead Fiona de Jong said it wonderful to witness the joy shared between the team and Varese Rugby Club.
“The ETC is very much a part of the local community, and we rely on their support to operate a world class facility for our Australian athletes. The 7s team were fantastic and you never know the impact this could have on kids to dream big and chase their sporting goals,” said Ms de Jong.