Orange City Lions juniors Hunter Ward and Yool Yool are no strangers to representative 15-a-side rugby but now they’ve earned higher honours in the sevens format too, having been named in the NSW under-17 side to tackle the national titles next month.
The duo received an invitation to trial after performing strongly for their Central West under-17 side at the state championship earlier this year and have been travelling to Sydney each weekend since to train with the extended NSW squad.
Their hard work and commitment was rewarded when the 28-man squad was reduced to 24 and allocated into first and second string sides, both were named in the former.
Ward and Yool Yool are two of four regionally-based players in the top side.
The duo, along with Bathurst’s Jakiya Whitfield and Teagan Miller who were picked in the girls’ NSW side, will head to Sydney for a two-day camp this weekend, before flying to Perth the following weekend for the Youth Girls and Boys Sevens National Championships.
The draw for that competition is already available, Ward and Yool Yool’s NSW side will face the other sky blue unit along with Queensland, Northern Territory and the Lloyd McDermott Development Squad during the pool stage of the tournament.
Both the boys’ and girls’ NSW sides will be looking to defend the titles won in March this year – something all four reps are confident of being able to do.
“I think everyone has put in the commitment and if the teams can click, we can come away with the wins,” Miller said.
“All the teams will be strong and are looking to prove a point. It’s a privilege to play for your state and we’re really stoked to play.”
National sides will be picked from the championships, with one eye on the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Australian Rugby Union general manager Ben Whitaker said the tournament will be excellent stepping-stone for competing players who are looking to further their careers in the modified sport.
“In what will be a big year for both our men’s and women’s national sevens teams, we are excited to be able to build the pathway for our next generation of national squad players and Olympians,” Whitaker said.