Exclusive: The Womens’ Sevens Player of the Year Charlotte Caslick reflects on glory in Rio and looks ahead to the future.
Charlotte Caslick, the standout player in Australia’s run to the gold medal in Rio last year, has already reached the pinnacle of the sport after being crowned as the best Womens’ Sevens player in the world last year. And she only turns 22 in March.
Catching up ahead of a sold-out Sydney Sevens event this weekend, Caslick’s newfound status as a global Sevens icon is something she impressively takes in her stride.
Just five years ago Caslick was invited to try her hand at Sevens by the Australian Rugby Union, who had spotted her talent when she was playing touch rugby at 16. Her rise to the top since then has been meteoric.
“I was definitely tentative at the time,” Caslick said.
“It was so new and the thought of contact scared me a little bit. But I’m so glad I took up the opportunity.”
Look forward another five years into Caslick’s career and who knows how good a player she might be, which bodes well for both Australia and the sport as a whole.
“We have a lot of untapped potential and new girls coming through who have shown they can become awesome players,” she said.
“A lot of us have only been playing rugby for three to four years, if that. The more you play, the more you learn.
“We are starting to build our kicking and offloading skills, those areas that might not be as natural coming from a touch background. We definitely have the skills, we just need to keep practicing.
“On the Men’s side of the game, they have been playing since the age of five or six. We just have to keep perfecting those skills.”
Switching to XVs for now is not on the agenda – “If I could learn to kick I’d like to play full-back,” she admits – with plenty left to achieve in Sevens including the Sevens Rugby World Cup in San Francisco next year and a Sevens World Series title to defend.
And like any modern athlete, Caslick knows that she can be the inspiration for the next wave of Australian talent through both her performances out on the field, but also off it by providing a glimpse of the life of a top Sevens athlete on social media.
“It is not so much a weight but more of an honour to be able to be at the forefront of the sport and leading the way for girls in Australia especially,” Caslick acknowledged.
“I guess being successful helps in terms of getting media attention, which is always going to be the way when we are successful, but hopefully we can stay at that level.
“Winning the gold medal did wonders for Australian rugby and hopefully inspired lots of young girls to give it a go.
“That was probably the biggest impact we had, at grassroots level, but hopefully globally as well by getting the sport out to such a large audience like only the Olympics can offer. The sport is growing so much.”
Victory in Rio and keeping intact a core that includes Caslick and exciting players like Emilee Cheery, Ellia Green and Alicia Quirk gives Australia the chance to build a legacy under the guidance of head coach Tim Walsh.
Which is why Caslick acknowledges that her award was a result of the fluid attack that has guided Australia to the top.
Having athletic talent as Caslick clearly does is one thing, but her work-rate is what led Walsh to describe as having “consistently performed at a world class level for over three years”.
“The award topped off what was an incredible year. But my success comes off the back of the team, because I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the girls, especially the backs I play with,” Caslick acknowledges.
“Quirky [Alicia Quirk], Chezz [Emilia Cheery] and Emma [Tonegato], we kind of know each other inside out to the point where it is almost second nature now.”
That connection will be on full display again this weekend in Sydney as Australia look to bounce back from losing out to New Zealand in Dubai last year.
Australia’s emergence as a force in Womens’ Sevens force, breaking up New Zealand’s dominant run of three straight Sevens series titles, sets up a heavyweight battle between the two Antipodean rivals that can take the sport to a new level, with Caslick and Green taking on the the likes of Portia Woodman and Sarah Goss.
“We had beaten New Zealand for almost 18 months, so it was a lot of pressure.
“There were positives out of Dubai and hopefully that can motivate us in front of a home crowd. We know we still have so much to work on, and that we haven’t reached our potential yet.”
Whatever success Australia taste either this weekend or beyond, Caslick is bound to be at the heart of it, just as she was as the architect of some of their best moments in Rio.
The best in the game is just getting started.