THE Youth Olympic Festival in Sydney this week can be viewed as a stepping stone for Australia’s teenage rugby sevens stars with ambitions of wearing the green and gold at Rio 2016.
Amongst them will be Cumnock’s Jack McCalman.
The Kings School student, usually a flanker in the 15-a-side game, will pack down at hooker when his side takes the field at St Ignatius College in Lane Cove on Friday and Saturday.
McCalman is no stranger to representative football, having played in the NSW Under 15s in 2011 and was part of the NSW Open Second side last year.
He also earned selection in the Australian Schoolboys A side in 2012 and he’s looking forward to another taste of international competition.
However the intensity of an international tournament will add a new element to his plans for progression in the code.
While his charges be out to have some fun against China, Japan, South Africa and Tonga, Australian coach Hugh Carpenter says it’s a good chance for the under-18s to showcase their talent with a view to higher honours.
“We certainly think there are a number of boys in this group that will fit the mould for the national sevens,” Carpenter said.
“If a lot of these boys impress here, they’ll get invited into the national men’s seven squad.”
Rugby sevens will also be making its first appearance at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival.
All 12 players in the Australian side are 17-year-olds who’ve been selected from the national schoolboy tournament throughout 2012.
“A lot of these boys have played high-level rugby and I feel they’re up for this challenge. They know what they’re in for,” he said.
“We know our first game, against Tonga, might be messy, but we know after that we’ll be right.”
Australian Olympic Committee director of sport Fiona de Jong said it was a great chance for fans to watch a sport on the rise with the Rio Olympics on the horizon.
“It will be exciting for Australians to have the opportunity to see a new Olympic sport being played in our own backyard,” she said.
“It’s exciting too because we genuinely will be seeing some of the best talent in the world mixing it up.”