Aussie veteran Sharni Williams is all about bringing positive energy. This feature first appeared in Rugby World magazine

AFTER WINNING an A Olympic gold medal with Australia women back in 2016, Sharni Williams was driven around her home town of Batlow in the back of a BMW.

“We finished at the school hall,” she remembers. “They ended up calling it the Sharni Williams Hall. It’s pretty cool going back to see the plaque up there
– I did a lot of beep tests in that hall and I probably broke a lot of lights playing hockey and things like that in there too!”

The forward has come a long way since those smashing days, and says she still pinches herself. Williams never thought a girl from a small country town of 1,500 would ever leave Australia, let alone lead them in global competitions.

Her abiding memories of her World Sevens Series debut back in 2012?

“I remember I was very unfit, I had just come back from a holiday over in USA, on a cruise,” she says. And not just any cruise, oh no. This was a KISS cruise, watching the hair-metal legends perform night after night. Gene Simmons and buffet lunches on the high seas.

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But being run around on the wing back then, as she describes it, was ultimately a positive. She learnt not to beat herself up, to work hard to lay down a fitness base, and to have fun.

Last year’s sevens season had been obliterated, the Olympics moved on a year, stars were scattering to other codes for stints – some even moved on altogether. Yet those who remained or came back are fixated on the big Olympic picture and worked hard to stay connected.

“When we first went into lockdown, we were doing Zooms and stretch sessions on the little screen, watching each other and keeping each other accountable,” Williams says. “Some of the girls were doing TikToks to send to each other.

“We were just trying to keep active and interactive with each other and make sure that we’re still on the same page, even though it’s a longer page.”

Sharni Williams

Williams scores in Tokyo against the USA (Getty Images)

Williams laughs that she is too old for japes on TikTok. Yet she is happy to discuss changes for her since 2012.

She begins of the rugby: “I’m being called Benjamin Button at the moment! Apparently I’m getting better with age…

“I think it’s the knowledge of the game, being able to do the short cuts to the rucks, the ins and outs of the game.

“It’s also about knowing what I want for myself and for other girls playing the game. To stamp your foot down and say you’re worthy. To back yourself because you stick your hand up every single day to wear that jersey for your country, so you’re deserving of so much more.

“I’ve seen a massive step forward. And then stints where you ask, ‘Why aren’t things happening faster?’

“Women’s sport here in Australia is thriving. There’s so much more coverage, publicity, really matching the men, but it is slow.

“That also gives you a fire in your belly to keep fighting and keep showcasing how amazing women are at sport.”

That fire can power the team in Tokyo. Sharing positive vibes underpins it all too.

This feature first appeared in Rugby World magazine. Download the digital edition of Rugby World straight to your tablet or subscribe to the print edition to get the magazine delivered to your door.

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