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'You can only peak once': Australia measuring SVNS success for Olympics

By AAP
Australia leave the field after their defeat during the 2023 Sydney Sevens match between Australia and France at Allianz Stadium on January 28, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Australian rugby sevens gun Maddison Levi is borrowing from the nation’s world-beating swimmers in an attempt to peak for Paris.

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The reigning World Cup and Commonwealth Games champions have won the Dubai and Cape Town legs of the new women’s sevens season to cap a faultless calendar year.

Perth next month will host one of six World Series tournaments remaining before the Olympics in July.

Gold medallists at the Rio 2016 Games in the sport’s Olympic debut, Australia subsequently lost ground to a dominant New Zealand.

But the program has risen again to put Tim Walsh’s women among the favourites for Paris gold.

Levi and her younger sister Teagan have been key to that resurgence, the latter impressing this year with her gameplay and defence to complement Maddison’s established offensive threat.

Wary not to peak too soon, the older sibling says the team have taken a leaf from the Dolphins’ Olympic playbook to navigate the next seven months.

“The swimmers have their trials a month out from the Olympics,” the Gold Coast talent, whose first taste of professional sport came with the Suns in the AFLW, said.

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Australia’s swimmers collected a record 25 medals at Japan’s world championships in July.

But, with a short turnaround to Paris in mind, a squad about half the size and missing most of its stars will compete at the next global titles in Doha in February.

“You can only peak once,” Levi said.

“We’ve had a bit of a trial peak and we’ll go back to grinding hard and hopefully peak for the Olympics.

“We’ve just got to go back to the drawing board after two successful weekends.

“The hard work doesn’t stop here.”

A knee injury suffered in Cape Town threatens to derail the Games campaign of veteran Demi Hayes.

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But, again resisting overtures from AFLW and NRLW to sign with Rugby Australia until 2026, the Levis have added more strings to the bow of a side still powered by Charlotte Caslick and the evergreen Sharni Williams.

“I’ve known her potential all along and she can be an integral part of that team,” Maddison said of sister Teagan.

“For her to come out of her shell … she’ll take the team to another level with her attacking style and eagerness in defence.

“She’ll take on anyone … still got a lot to bring to the table and it’s exciting with the confidence she’s got now that she can take us to hopefully a gold medal in Paris.”

 

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Poorfour 5 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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