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‘Blood, sweat and tears’: Three-month search finds the best 133 Indigenous rugby players

Earlier this year, RA announced it would conduct talent identification tours, weaving from Alice Springs to Bathurst, searching for the next Shannon Walker, Mark Ella or Taleena Simon. With the support of several former and current rugby players, including Andrew Walker, the tours saw thousands of players, aged 14-25, put their best foot forward in the hopes of taking to the world stage.

Former Australian sevens assistant coach Jarred Hodges helped organise the road show.

Former Australian sevens assistant coach Jarred Hodges helped organise the road show.Credit:Marty Cambridge

The chosen 46 women and 87 men will take part in a three-day camp in Sydney this month where they’ll put their skills to the test in front of coaches and Australian sevens players. The camp will also offer lessons around the importance of leadership, recovery and nutrition.

Program participant Breanna Green said while she’s thrilled – and a bit nervous – to have been selected, it still feels like a dream.

“It’s a good opportunity,” she said. “It means a lot and it’s doing my family proud.”

The 17-year-old, who has played rugby for several years, said while she doesn’t see many Indigenous people in the sport, she hopes to change that.

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While Hodges’ dream is to have multiple players on full-time sevens contracts and see them play at the Paris Olympics, he said the program’s purpose runs deeper.

“The selected players will work within their communities using rugby to increase health and fitness,” he said.

But it’s also an opportunity to increase Indigenous participation and registration within the game, an issue that RA is keen to improve.

“The game hasn’t always been inclusive and Ruby Australia recognises that it’s time to change,” Hodges said. “This is only going to grow. As it grows, there will be other opportunities in the game, not just for players … but for coaches, referees and competitions.”

“It’s a whole-game approach. We’ve got to kick those doors open and keen them open for business for all.”

Following the camp, two First Nations Sevens squads will be chosen to compete around the
country.

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