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Women’s rugby pioneer: Charlotte Caslick makes history on SVNS Series

By Finn Morton
Australia captain Charlotte Caslick runs out for her 50th cap on the HSBC SVNS Series. Picture: World Rugby.

Charlotte Caslick continues to lead the way as a pioneer of women’s rugby with the Australia captain becoming the first-ever to reach an incredible sevens milestone in Vancouver.

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Thousands of supporters had just made their way into BC Place Stadium on a chilly Friday morning in Canada when the sevens world stopped to appreciate Caslick’s greatness.

With the Australia and Japan women’s teams both lined up in the tunnel, the Olympic gold medallist let out a smile before running out onto the field without her teammates.

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At that moment, Caslick became the first woman to reach 50 tournaments on the HSBC SVNS Series. It’s a historic achievement for a player unanimously considered an all-time great.

Caslick, 28, stood alone in the centre of the Vancouver stadium as thousands let out a cheer. Of those who expressed their appreciation and admiration was Aussie teammate Teagan Levi who was among the first to greet her captain out in the middle.

“I was pretty embarrassed,” Caslick told RugbyPass. “I had to last year as well for my 250th game. I was running out on my own which is sort of embarrassing.

“It’s really nice. I’ve been playing for a long time. Back when I first started we had like four or five-max tournaments a year so to now have all of them alongside the men is pretty cool just to see how far the game’s gone.

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“They made me shirts during the week and they’re just such an awesome group of girls.

“I’ve been so fortunate to go through with the Rio 2016 group and win that gold medal and then we’ve inspired all these girls to play, and to still be a part of the team and their journey has been pretty special.

“Teagan and Maddi (Levi) are my biggest fans. They always run out behind me and you can always see them with pure joy on their faces.

“It’s just great to see girls pumping up the girls and getting behind each other.”

Earlier this week, Caslick was at training in Vancouver when coach Tim Walsh pulled her aside for a “really deep conversation.” But it was all a ruse.

Little did Caslick know that all of her teammates were wearing shirts that celebrated her 50th cap, as captured by the SVNS Series’ social media team earlier this week.

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“I was like, ‘This is weird. Weird timing to have this conversation.’ Then all the girls ran over and I think I was scared of them at first,” Caslick said.

“It took me a while to register what was happening. I thought they were just being rude and interrupting our conversation.

“They’ve been wearing them ever since which is really cute.”

 

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But it’s the recognition that Caslick deserves. Having played with the Australian sevens side for almost 10 years, and winning an Olympic gold in the process, she’s helped inspire countless girls and women to chase their sporting dreams around the world.

The importance of that gold medal is not to be underestimated, either. It played a major role in the seismic shift in the Australian sporting landscape over the past decade.

Sports like NRLW, AFLW, netball, women’s cricket and of course, women’s rugby have taken the nation by storm, and Caslick has witnessed the change first-hand.

Caslick went to the same school as now-Australia teammate Bella Nasser. As the Aussie skipper reflected on “the best part” of the growth of women’s sport, Caslick spoke about the difference in opportunities during their schooling days.

“When I was at school they wouldn’t put a female team in so I trained with the boys in Year 12 and our teacher, Mr Sione, he was awesome and let me train with the First XV and learn rugby,” she added.

“Once I finished, obviously girls like Bella were coming through so the school decided to put in rugby teams.

“I think just those little changes that we’ve seen in Australia now, like girls can play rugby from six to all the way through to the open women’s grades. That wasn’t a thing when I was growing up.

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“I think that’s the biggest change and the best part about it.”

Caslick’s historic Friday in Vancouver was almost somewhat soured by what would’ve been an all-time upset with Japan coming frightening close to a shock win.

Sakura Mizutani opened the scoring in the fifth minute, and while veterans Sharni Smale and Caslick both crossed soon after to give the SVNS Series leaders an advantage, another Japanese try made things very interesting.

Honoka Tsutsumi crossed for a decisive five-pointer in the 13th minute, but a missed conversation meant Australia still led by two. In the end, that’s all they needed as they held on for a 12-10 win.

But considering the Aussies defeated Japan 66-nil in Dubai a few months ago, this is quite a stunning start to SVNS Vancouver.

“We all had one or two errors each which when you add them all together, that’s a lot of errors.

“Japan just played their little hearts out. We know against them out work rate has to be really good because they’re bouncing around, they’ve got so much energy and they’re so fit and fast.

“We did do that. Our work rate was awesome, our defence was awesome. I think in attack we were really inpatient ant let out ourselves down a little bit.

“But like you said, a win’s a win, it doesn’t matter how you get them but it probably would’ve been nice not to be so intense.”

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