With less than a day to go until the HSBC Sydney Sevens gets underway at Spotless Stadium, we’ve picked seven players to light up the third round of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2019.
STACEY WAAKA (NEW ZEALAND)
Where else to start but with Stacey Waaka who was on fire during the Black Ferns Sevens’ success at the Fast Four invitational tournament in Hamilton last weekend. The 25-year-old was in scintillating form in the team’s first international tournament on home soil, scoring not one but two hat-tricks against France – a side they face again in the pool stages in Sydney. With a lethal step off her right foot, expect to see Waaka – a World Cup winner in both 15s and sevens – running in plenty of tries in the Olympic Park this weekend.
EVE HIGGINS (IRELAND)
No stranger to Australian shores, Eve Higgins swapped the green of Ireland for the Gold Coast last year to play with Bond University in the Aon University Sevens Series. It’s easy to forget it is only the 19-year-old’s second season on the world stage, such has become her importance to the Irish cause, be it for the big tackles in defence or her ability to burst through to create tries for herself or others.
BIANCA FARELLA (CANADA)
The Canadian will, along with team-mate Kayla Moleschi, in Sydney join New Zealand captain Sarah Hirini as the only players to play in 30 or more women’s series tournaments and you can expect more of the same from the 26-year-old … plenty of run-ins from distance! Bianca Farella already has 12 tries to her name on the 2019 series, one behind Michaela Blyde and just five shy of her total for last season. If her scoring streak continues then Canada could be celebrating a second title in Sydney in three years.
EVANIA PELITE (AUSTRALIA)
While the work she puts in around the park may go unnoticed by many, Evania Pelite will have a pivotal role to play if Australia are to defend their title on home soil this weekend and solidify themselves in the top four of the series standings that would secure them qualification for Tokyo 2020 come June. The DHL Impact Player in Dubai, where she also made the HSBC Dream Team, Pelite works tirelessly, putting in the big tackles, turning ball over with regularity and has a habit of being in the right place at the right time. She also refuses to give up a breakaway as a lost cause and has often pulled off some incredible try-saving tackles to rescue her team.
ANA MARIA NAIMASI (FIJI)
A strong and powerful runner, Ana Maria Naimasi will be pleased to see six of Fijiana’s star names returning in Sydney this weekend, enabling her to shed the burden of experience that has sat heavily on her shoulders in Glendale and Dubai where the popular Pacific Islanders fielded new-look squads that have struggled to cope with the pace of the series. With a new coach also at the helm in Saiasi Fuli, Namaisi will be free to do what she does best, put in crunching tackles in defence and use her power and pace to unlock opposition defences to perhaps fire Fijiana into their first quarter-final of the season.
EMMA TONEGATO (AUSTRALIA)
NAYA TAPPER (USA)
The Women’s Eagles Sevens flyer is within touching distance of becoming her country’s leading try scorer in series history, needing just two tries to surpass Victoria Folayan’s benchmark of 64. She may be stuttering to the milestone with only four tries to her name this series, but the former athlete blessed with power, strength and no shortage of pace is not a player opponents should give room to, because once she gets the ball in space she is very hard to stop and many an attempted tackler have found themselves bounced off or left behind.