Soon eager for more success with Australia
Three years ago Cheryl Soon was on cloud nine, having led Australia to the inaugural Women’s Rugby World Cup Sevens title following a dramatic sudden-death extra-time victory in the heat of the Dubai desert.
A mention of that momentous day even now brings a huge smile to Soon’s face and is the reason she is desperate to return to the Wallaroos jersey in time for next year’s tournament in Moscow as Australia seek to successfully defend the title.
Soon has taken time out of the game to give birth to her first child who is now four months old, but admits she is “itching to get back into it” and force her way into the Australian team who will this weekend be competing at the Oceania Women’s Sevens Championship in Fiji.
“I have had 12 months off having my baby. I have had a bit of a break and I am definitely itching to get back into it,” admitted Soon, who was also part of the IRB’s successful campaign to have Rugby Sevens included in the Olympic Games from 2016.
“I know it’s not going to be easy, it is going to be very difficult, the girls have been playing for a while now and have got a hectic schedule that they have been on, travelling around the world and stuff.
“I know what it takes, I know it won’t be easy, I know it will be very hard but I am very passionate and I am just going to do everything I can to put my best foot forward.”
Hidden talent in Australia
Soon, who also captained Australia’s Fifteens team to their best ever finish in a Women’s Rugby World Cup with third in 2010, believes the Wallaroos have a good chance of successfully defending their title in the Russian capital from 28-30 June 2013.
“Well I am obviously going to say Australia,” Soon insisted when quizzed on her favourites for RWC Sevens 2013. “We have got a lot of hidden talent here and we know what it takes to win.
“We have been there before, it is a lot of hard work and I believe we can do that but everyone has to believe you can do it collectively as a team and believe in yourself, just set that goal and go for it.
“Hopefully I can make a comeback myself. It is something I really want to be part of because I have been there and it is just the most incredible feeling achieving something of that magnitude.”
Australia’s success in 2009 was not only an occasion to savour for all involved in the team, but it also helped inspire a new generation of young girls to give Sevens a try.
“I think it gave both a boost to the game here and was also a great feeling to those involved,” explained Soon.
“It was just such an incredible achievement. We had very minimal preparation and for us to achieve something like that was just absolutely incredible.
Raising profile of women's Sevens
“I think we got a lot of respect from that. I don’t think people were expecting us to win. England went in seeded first and the favourites were them and New Zealand.
“I know when we came back from that there were a lot of young girls who were inspired by that and if we can do that and inspire young girls to get involved and participate and play our sport I think it is a great thing.
“There is so much happening thanks to the IRB with their new Sevens circuit coming.
“It is wonderful for Women’s Rugby, it helps to lift the profile of Sevens and there are a lot of girls that want to be involved in that because it is really exciting to be travelling the world and playing against the best in the world, the likes of England, New Zealand and all these other countries who have improved so much.
“It is very exciting and I am sure the young girls will want to get on board.”
The first step on that road to RWC Sevens 2013 will be the Oceania Women’s Sevens Championship in Fiji on Friday and Saturday with Australia coach Chris Lane selecting a squad containing a number of teenagers.
Australia and New Zealand have qualified automatically for RWC Sevens 2013 as finalists last time out, but the other six teams in the regional tournament will be hoping to join them. The next best team behind the two favourites will progress to the Asian regional qualifier from which three teams will qualify for Moscow.
Exciting growth of Sevens
The top two will be favourites to battle it out again for the title, but Soon knows that the other teams in the Oceania region are showing improvement, particularly with Sevens to feature on the Olympic Games programme in 2016 and 2020.
“Those girls are very, very talented. I think all the other countries are proving that they are bridging the gap and everyone is improving as players and as a team and as a nation.
“In Sevens it could go either way, you play right down to the last second. A minute in Sevens is like 30 minutes in Fifteens, it is like it is a lifetime.
“Those other countries are definitely proving themselves and bridging the gap, you just can’t take anyone lightly.
“Everyone is improving. They are all implementing a Sevens programme because it is an Olympic sport now, so there is a lot of funding and a lot of support.
“I think that is really important and it shows with everybody else improving and it is just really exciting to see and be a part of and see it grow.
“It is great, it is great for the game and the players as well.”
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