Australia women's player ratings | Dubai SVNS 2023/24
Australia are the queens of the Dubai SVNS for the fourth time on the bounce after beating rivals New Zealand 26-19 in an enthralling cup final at The Sevens Stadium on Sunday evening.
With captain Charlotte Caslick leading the way, the Aussies didn’t let the sweltering heat slow them down at all as they ran away with dominant wins in pool play over Brazil, Japan and Ireland.
But the women in gold saved their best for the knockout stages as stepped up with a 32-5 demolition of the USA. France proved a tough opponent in the semi-finals, but it was all building to the final.
Reigning world champions New Zealand showed plenty of fight, but Australia appeared to be on a completely different level all weekend. They were worthy champions in the end.
Captain Caslick made the Dream Team along with Levi sisters Maddison and Teagan, but they weren’t the only Aussies to impress over a headline-grabbing run out in the Dubai desert.
- Sharni Smale – 5.5/10
SVNS veteran Sharni Smale showed glimpses of promise and even brilliance out in the desert during last weekend’s event in Dubai, but the Olympic gold medallist was far from a standout amongst a team of worthy winners.
Sporting her iconic rainbow-coloured headgear at The Sevens Stadium, Smale had a couple of key involvements over the two days as Australia mounted their title charge.
Smale’s crowning moment in Dubai was a breathtaking try assist against Japan in pool play. The Aussie threw an inch-perfect cutout pass for rising star Bella Nasser, with a Japanese defender coming incredibly close to an intercept.
Other than that, Smale had an eye-catching line break against the United States in the quarterfinal stage of the competition. Smale beat a couple of defenders on a lengthy burst into the USA 22, but unfortunately, she was cut down short of the try line.
- Faith Nathan – 8
Wing Faith Nathan was a bit of an unsung hero for Australia. While the likes of the Levi sisters and captain Charlotte Caslick received Dream Team honours after the Dubai SVNS, nothing has really been said about Nathan’s sensational form.
So, let’s change that. 23-year-old Faith Nathan did practically everything that was asked of her by coaches and teammates, with the speedster scoring seven tries over two days.
Pace is the word that comes to mind when trying to sum up Faith Nathan’s Dubai SVNS try-scoring blitz. With tries against Brazil, Japan, Ireland, the USA and France, world-class opponents had no answer for Nathan.
While it must be said that Nathan tended to reap the rewards from her teammates’ efforts – with Caslick in particular doing a great job to create space out wide – Nathan simply did her job as a winger and that can’t be faulted.
- Dominique Du Toit – 6.5
Reliable. That’s the easiest way possible to summarise Dominique Du Toit and what she means to this Australian women’s sevens side.
Du Toit was called on a number of times to add something different off the bench in Dubai, and more often than not the Aussie passed those tests with flying colours.
Playing against Japan in pool play, Du Toit threw a brilliant cut-out pass to Demi Hayes who raced out about 60 meters down the left wing for another Aussie score. While it will go down in history as Hayes’ try, the simply sublime pass deserves to be watched over and over.
Du Toit scored the final try of that match moments later, with the Queenslander running at least 85 metres to the house.
While the likes of the Levi’s and Caslick took over and stood out – as mentioned previously – Du Toit did have another moment to be celebrated as she won a penalty at the breakdown against Ireland.
So again, Du Toit is reliable and a true team player.
- Teagan Levi – 8.5
When the Dubai SVNS Dream Team was released just after the final, it wasn’t a surprise to see two superstar sisters included. Both Tegan and Maddison Levi were bestowed the honour.
While it’s not anything new for Maddison – who was nominated for Sevens Player of the Year last season – it’s a breakout achievement for Teagan as she continues her rapid rise.
Teagan Levi, 20, was scrumming, goal-kicking and setting up tries for the Aussies. Handed all that responsibility, some would falter and struggle – but Levi thrived.
Levi beat a few defenders and made some decent metres with her first touch of the 2023/24 season against Brazil, and it was a sign of things to come that weekend. The youngster was like a fetching backrower at times as she put her body on the line time and time again.
With four try assists going into the final, the rising star had certainly shone bright – but Levi’s best was still to come.
Playing in the Cup final against fierce rivals the Black Ferns Sevens, Levi scored tries on either side of the break and was generally quite brilliant with her restarts.
The only negatives from that performance were two missed tackles on New Zealand star Jorja Miller, with the Kiwi running away to score both times. This exchange has already set the scene for what promises to be an enthralling matchup in the years to come.
But with Australia winning the final and ending New Zealand’s incredible unbeaten run, Levi was named the Player of the Final. For a player who was benching for Australia less than a year ago at the Sydney Sevens, Levi has come a long way.
- Madison Ashby – 7.5
Named as one of RugbyPass’ seven players to watch on the SVNS Series in 2023/24, Ashby showcased moments of magic in Dubai – but the 21-year-old is better than that.
Ashby had a steady start to the new campaign. There were moments of brilliance, sure, but there were periods where she either went missing or was outdone by playmaker Charlotte Caslick.
Playing in the No. 6 jumper, Ashby scored a couple of tries in Dubai and registered a fairly handy try assist as well. That try assist was one of the very same ‘moments of magic’ referred to above.
Ashby won a penalty at the breakdown against the United States in their quarter-final clash, and the Aussie went on to reap the rewards with a try mere moments later. That’s noteworthy.
While the playmaker had some handy involvements in Australia’s play, and was of course helping steer the team around the park, nothing else really stood out. That’s not to say she was bad because Ashby certainly wasn’t, but the sevens world knows what the Aussie is capable of at her best.
- Charlotte Caslick (c) – 9
Settle in rugby fans because this is going to be a bit of a long one. Without dragging this on too much, Charlotte Caslick deserves plenty of praise and plaudits for her efforts in Dubai.
It would be tough to argue that there’s ever been a better women’s sevens player than Charlotte Caslick. The four-time Sevens Player of the Year nominee sent fans into a frenzy with a masterful performance on the way to Cup final glory.
Supporters were still making their way to their seats when Australia ran out onto the field early on Saturday morning in the UAE. The Aussies were drawn against Brazil in pool play.
While Brazil were no match for their heavily favoured opponents, it was Caslick who steered the Aussies to victory that morning – and it all started from the get-go.
Caslick threw a brilliant cutout pass across Teagan Levi to send older sister Maddison over for a score inside the opening minute of the season. It’s impossible to start a new campaign much better.
The skipper added another try assist shortly after, and completed the practically perfect performance with two ties as well. That set the tone for the entire Dubai SVNS event.
With two tries against Japan, and one against both Ireland and the USA, SVNS opponents didn’t seem to have an answer for Caslick. When the captain wasn’t scoring she was setting her teammates up too – finishing with at least six assists.
Charlotte Caslick might just be the best player in the world once again.
- Kaitlin Shave – 6
Former high school sprint champion Kaitlin Shave debuted in Aussie gold on the SVNS Series in Dubai, and the emerging talent didn’t skip a beat with a try in her first match.
Shave raced down the left wing with time up on the clock to complete Australia’s dominant victory over their South American opponents.
“I don’t think I can put it into words. I’m so happy, I’m so relieved,” Shave told RugbyPass after beating Brazil.
“Very nervous having a debut – making sure you don’t want to drop the ball or anything. I just feel like I’m feeling a bit more calm now after that.”
Rugby sevens fans didn’t get to see a whole lot more of Shave over the next couple of days but the Queenslander never let the team down when called upon to come off the bench.
- Bella Nasser – 5
Just like her fellow Queenslander in Kaitlin Shave, Bella Nasser wasn’t given a lot of opportunities to really stand out on the field. But compared to last season, Nasser seemed to play a bigger role.
Nasser’s first standout involvement was a try under the sticks against Japan. Running onto a perfect pass from Sharni Smale, Nasser dotted the ball down for her first career try.
With only seven players out on the field, it’s quite easy to spot someone when things aren’t going right for them or they’re making mistakes – and fans didn’t see that with Nasser.
The Aussie held her own on both sides of the ball, but without playing more minutes or making more of an impact, Nasser can’t be rated any higher than a 5.
- Dami Hayes – 5
Vice-captain Demi Hayes scored one try last weekend, and what a try it was. Playing against Japan, Hayes reeled in a brilliant cut-out pass from Dominique Du Toit for a long-range try.
Hayes had positioned herself quite well and it was a fair reward for a player who continues to work tirelessly around the park in the pursuit of rugby excellence and success.
But other than a penalty at the breakdown with time up on the clock against Brazil – with Hayes showcasing great technique – there weren’t too many highlight plays to speak of.
It wasn’t a standout weekend for Demi Hayes, but you can’t fault the work she did around the park. The Aussies’ are a different team with their leader on the field for a reason.
- Maddison Levi – 9
Maddison Levi’s record-breaking 57-try season in 2022/23 looks to be under a very real threat from… well, Maddison Levi.
After taking the SVNS world by storm during a brilliant second season on the circuit last season, Levi has seemingly taken her game to an all-new level after signing a new deal with Rugby Australia.
Levi set the tone with a try inside the first minute of the season against Brazil, and the wing added another to her tally shortly after.
“My job is made easy because the girls out on the field next to me make it easy so when they work hard it really helps me open up space,” Levi told RugbyPass.
“Coming into this one I didn’t really want to drop, I just wanted to keep working and keep building as one of the great wingers.”
But that’s far from the full story. Over the course of six games – which is a maximum of 84 minutes, and of course she didn’t play every second – Levi scored 11 tries. Simply incredible.
Levi’s try-scoring blitz included a hat-trick against Canada in pool play, doubles against Brazil, Ireland, the USA and France, and a decisive score in the final against New Zealand.
But for all the talk about Levi’s try-scoring ability, the former AFLW draftee deserves some praise for her efforts off the ball. Levi worked hard to get into position, reel in the ball off the kick-off, and in defence as well.
Levi was a woman on a mission on the defensive side of the ball, especially off the kick-off. On more than one occasion an opponent caught the ball and was then immediately hit into next week by a determined Levi.
- Bienne Terita – 7
Bienne Terita is a young player to watch this season, that’s for sure. If you tuned into last weekend’s series event in Dubai you would’ve seen glimpses of stardom in Bienne Terita – especially against Brazil.
After coming onto the field as a substitute, Terita showed plenty of passion ,determination and skill in the leadup to Madison Ashby’s try with a few minutes to go. But before the match was done, the rising star played a hand in another score – this time it was captain Caslick.
Terita was once described as “world-class” by Australia 15s coach Jay Tregonning after scoring two ties in as many Tests against eventual World Cup winners the Black Ferns.
While it’s not like Terita is new to the series or an unknown, it’s exciting to see the youngster improve week after week, tournament after tournament.
The Dubai SVNS wasn’t a home run in terms of a starring performance in the road to cup glory, but there was more than a glimmer of potential and that’s incredibly intriguing.
- Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea – 4.5
Alysia Leafau-Fakosilea made her mark on the defensive side of the ball, but it was also what cost her in the end.
Playing against Brazil in Australia’s first pool match, Leafau-Fakosilea stunned fans with a big tackle early in the second term – and backed that up with another massive shot against Japan.
But more than 24 hours later, the Aussie was shown a yellow card for a no arms tackle against France in their semi-final. Then, after coming back on, Leafau-Fakosilea was sent off for a high shot.
“George I have a decision for you,” the TMO said. “There is foul play, a high degree of danger and it’s a red card for number 55 gold.”
It wasn’t the end to Lefau-Fakaosilea campaign that she obviously would’ve wanted or deserved.
But as for the good moments, Lefau-Fakaosilea set up captain Caslick with a brilliant one-handed offload. Leafau-Fakosilea was mere metres from the try-line too, but was unselfish as she handed the ball off for the score.
- Sariah Paki – 5
There were two moments of Sariah Paki’s brilliance that deserve some praise after the Dubai SVNS. Playing against Japan Paki took the ball into contact, and the play appeared dead.
But almost out of nowhere Paki created something special but throwing an offload off the deck which dribbled its way to Maddison Levi. Levi picked the ball up and ran away for one of her 11 tries.
Later that day against Ireland, Paki made a considerable breakthrough Ireland’s defensive line in the leadup to another Maddison Levi. Promising involvements from the 22-year-old.