On and off the field, Australian rugby is breaking new ground.
Last year, Raelene Castle became the first woman to head up any rugby organization when she was unveiled as the new CEO of Rugby Australia.
Shortly afterward, Australia’s male and female sevens players were granted pay parity on what was declared a “great day for women’s sport.”
And then, in January, Australia’s women made history in Sydney by becoming the first team to win a Sevens World Series event without conceding a single point.
For Castle, the women’s success on the field helped pave the way for the advances made off it, most notably in pay parity.
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“Athletes are training just as hard as the men, delivering commercial outcomes like the men are and therefore you can start to have not only the rational conversation about equality but also the more emotive conversation about it,” she told CNN’s World Rugby.
“It’s an enormous step forward for our women’s sevens team and I absolutely believe it’s the right one.”
Australia is unbeaten in this season’s Sevens World Series, winning tournaments in Dubai and Sydney.
Add to this an Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016 and it’s no surprise the seven-a-side game is booming Down Under — participation increased from 200,000 to 1.7 million between 2014 and 2017, including a 33% rise during the Olympic year.
Eye on the future
The first women’s Sevens World Series took place in 2012-13 and Australia became the first nation other than New Zealand to lift the title in 2016. This season’s competition takes in five venues with Australia well positioned to claim its second crown.
This year there’s the added incentive of a World Cup in July, hosted by the USA in San Francisco, and the Commonwealth Games, hosted in Australia’s Gold Coast.
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