Aussie boxer Skye Nicolson posted a video on Instagram showing her journey to the Olympic village….
Aussie boxer Skye Nicolson posted a video on Instagram showing her journey to the Olympic village.
Australia’s hopes of defending their gold in women’s rugby rest on Charlotte Caslick’s shoulders.
One of the faces of Australian rugby, she’s more recognisable than half the Wallabies.
When she masterminded Australia’s gold medal triumph in 2016, she inspired a generation of young females to pick up a rugby ball, tie their hair in pigtails and run gold ribbon through it.
Athletic, powerful and seriously quick, Caslick represented the new age woman whose skill and extraordinary toughness in defence and over the ball, where she attacks it like a seagull eyeing a potato chip, is something to behold.
But Australia’s sleepy performances since knocking over the Black Ferns in Rio were unwittingly summed up by the star playmaker as she prepares to take on the world again.
“Since it (the Tokyo Olympics) got postponed, I sort of had this weird feeling that I never wanted to get super excited about it again because it was so heartbreaking when it got postponed, so I had, not that I had forgotten about it, but it was in the back of my mind,” Caslick told News Corp.
“The day I got told I was selected, it was the first time I had that excitement again and the nerves started to come.”
For Caslick, whose “brand” exploded after the Rio success, it is like she has been waiting for this moment to finally show what she is capable of producing on the field.
“It’s going to be really cool to be competing on the big stage again,” she says.
“I’m excited to see where everyone is again, get that exposure on free-to-air TV and all over the world for our sport and, for us personally, it’s been a long time coming and we’ve been working really hard.”
Like it or not though, Australia’s golden girls from Rio have lost their shimmer in recent years.
Until recently, there was a perception this side spent too long in the gym and not enough on the paddock and had got too big for their boots.
Now they are resting on their big match experience and the unpredictability of sevens to bring them back into contention, because on recent form, it is New Zealand’s gold medal to lose.
Not since hammering New Zealand in the final of the Sydney tournament in 2018 has Australia beaten their trans-Tasman rivals – a run of 15 straight defeats, including an extra time loss in the Commonwealth Games final.
When Australia kept the Black Ferns to a doughnut at the old Sydney Football Stadium on a glorious Sunday afternoon in 2018, Australia was the envy of the world having gone through the tournament without conceding a point.
It was the perfect swan song for gold medal-winning coach Tim Walsh, who opted to leave and chance his arm by being awarded the men’s coaching gig.
But since passing the baton on to assistant coach John Manenti, Australia, with injuries playing a part, have struggled for consistency and routinely stumbled against New Zealand, while the USA, Canada, France and even Spain have tasted success.
“We’re definitely well aware that we’re chasing,” Caslick admits.
“We’re going to have to pull off something special to beat those (New Zealand) girls.
“We’re pretty fortunate to be facing one of the greatest women’s sevens teams that I think will ever play the game.
“Sometimes it’s tough being on the other end of it, but if we do pull it all together I have so much belief that we will be able to beat them. That’s where it starts, we’ve got to start believing in ourselves and believing we can beat them.”
Like the great Queensland Maroons team or the Australian cricket side that lost Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer after the 2008 Ashes Test, one by one the sevens team of 2016 have stepped away from the game.
The retirements of Emilee Cherry and Alicia Quirk were hammer blows, while the recent injury to Chloe Dalton meant another gold medallist did not make the plane to Tokyo.
Ellia Green, meanwhile, was surprisingly not selected, with fears over her ability to perform in the hot and humid conditions in Tokyo.
It has left just five survivors from the Rio team, with Caslick joined by captains Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry, as well as Evania Pelite and Emma Tonegato.
“The group’s extremely different to the Rio group and there’s some positives to it I see, but there’s some things I miss about it, too,” Caslick admits.
“I’ve played with Em Cherry since I was 15, and Alicia Quirk as well, and I guess we’d done that whole journey together, so I feel there’s a piece of me that is missing with them not on the field with me.”
While the next generation of speedsters might be starting to come through, it is Caslick that Australia’s hopes rest on.
Should she fire, Australia has a playmaker who can have her own George Gregan “four more years” moment against New Zealand.
Originally published asWhy Aussies badly need Rio hero to produce magic again