Australia falls just short in women’s rugby comp

Published on CPL Sebastian Beurich (author and photographer)

Location(s): Canberra, ACT, Canberra, ACT

Topic(s): Rugby Union

Australian Defence Force players watch the New Zealand Defence Force team perform a haka prior to their game during the Pacific Military Cup in Canberra on 26 October 2019. (photo: CPL Sebastian Beurich)
Australian Defence Force players watch the New Zealand Defence Force team perform a haka prior to their game during the Pacific Military Cup in Canberra on 26 October 2019.

After coming within minutes of walking away on top, the Australian Defence Force team was beaten by the New Zealand Defence Force in the second Pacific Military Cup rugby competition.

The Cup, held in Canberra from 24-26 October, brought together Women’s Rugby 7s teams from Tonga, Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Zealand and Australia to battle it out for top honours.

Private Sarah Riordan said each of the teams had different strengths and weaknesses.

“We really had to tailor each game to each of the teams,” she said.

“Towards the end it got a fair bit more difficult, with the final being what we expected - really fast.

“The Kiwis always offer a really good challenge, but unfortunately they were a little bit better than us on the day. The girls did really well; we stuck in there and fought hard until the end.”

The teams all helped run a coaching clinic for students at Gold Creek Primary School in Canberra, splitting up into different teams and running drills for the kids.

“All the kids went through activities working on different rugby skills - one was working with tackle pads, another was agility work and then there were some passing activities,” Flying Officer Izzy Atkinson-Smith said.

“We made them fun for the kids - into competitions and races, to help keep them engaged.

“I think my standout moment was towards the end of the Cup when I noticed all our training paying off.

“We definitely grew as a team throughout the competition.”

The women had a week of training at RAAF Base Amberley in Queensland before splitting into two 7s teams for a competition in Byron Bay, New South Wales, according to Able Seaman Mahalia Ellis.

“They were tough games during the Cup - the New Zealanders were quite speedy,” she said.

“It was really good to get involved with the other teams, both in the coaching clinic and during our farewell function, where they performed cultural dances.

“Even just eating with them and talking about rugby and our lives was really enjoyable.”

The Australian Defence Force Rugby Union Chairman, Rear Admiral Michael Rothwell, said the Cup proved a valuable way to engage with Pacific neighbours.

“Sport really is a universal language. Through this competition we were able to showcase Australia’s identity, values and culture,” he said.

“Outside of just playing Rugby, the Pacific Military Cup gave all of the competitors the opportunity to engage with their contemporaries and learn about each others experiences, building strong, deep personal links.

“I’m really pleased with how the Cup was conducted, in a fabulous spirit, and I think everyone who attended came away having had a great experience both on and off the field.”

Imagery is available on the Defence Image Gallery: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20192706.