Seven of the best: the world's top sevens players

A host of rugby superstars are in Sydney this week for the Sydney Sevens, one of only three tournaments on the world series circuit to combine men and women in a three-day event. From track stars to dancing Fijians and bruising dual-format specialists, the talent on show at Allianz Stadium will be second to none. We pick seven of the best from around the world.

1. Dan Norton, England It is hard to go past the man who last year became sevens' all time top try scorer. With a try in the Hong Kong world series tournament last April, Norton surpassed the 244-try record set by Kenya's Collins Injera since his debut in 2009. He was sitting on 261 tries at the end of last year's world series and has arrived in Sydney intent on adding more to the tally. Norton has terrific pace and can step off both feet, traits that have no doubt helped make him one of the most dominant players on the men's circuit.

2. Rosko Specman, South Africa It is hard to single out one player in the dominant and hugely experienced South African men's sevens team, known as the Blitzboks, but it may as well be the man they call 'Speck Magic' for his incredible pace and darting footwork. The 28-year-old was named on the dream team for the 2016-17 world series and rivals US stars Perry Baker and Carlin Isles for speed over 100 metres. In a country where many sevens players still covet 15s contracts, Specman is a staunch believer that sevens stands alone.

3. Charlotte Caslick, Australia There is a reason braids have become the hairstyle du jour for aspiring sevens players around Australia and it has a lot to do with the exhilarating style showcased by Australian star Charlotte Caslick. Still only 22, Caslick plays with the assured cool of a sevens veteran thanks to almost five years in the national program. Over that time her combination of strength, pace and vision has made her the archetypal Australian player and her dominance during the team's 2016 Rio campaign has made her the unofficial face of the sport around the country.

4. Portia Woodman, New Zealand It is difficult to overstate Woodman's influence on women's sevens as a sport, let alone the Black Ferns. She was crowned World Rugby's women's player of the year last year and helped New Zealand claim the 2016-17 world series, a redemption of sorts after the bitter disappointment of losing to Australia in the gold medal match at the Rio Olympics a year earlier, not to mention the manner in which it happened (Woodman was sin-binned in the final for a knock-on and in an emotional post-match interview shouldered much of the blame herself for the loss). A dual-format wunderkind when the trend is for less and less crossover between 15s and sevens, Woodman scored 13 tries in five games at last year's 15s World Cup in Ireland, including a staggering eight in one match.

5. Michaela Blyde, New Zealand If the rest of the Black Ferns play in Woodman's shadow, it is only a matter of time before youngster Michaela Blyde emerges to claim her own share of the limelight. The 22-year-old was named 2017 world women's sevens player of the year for her part in New Zealand's dominant season, which included 40 tries and a nod for impact player of the series. After a debut at the Noosa 7s, Blyde has quickly converted her childhood athletics training into quick feet and scorching pace, traits that appear to put her front and centre of plans for new New Zealand coach Allan Bunting.

6. Jerry Tuwai, Fiji The diminutive heart and soul of the 2016 Olympic champion Fiji men's team and its newest captain, having taken charge at the start of the 2017-18 world series in Dubai last year. Like many of his team mates, Tuwai came from humble beginnings, learning to play rugby on a roundabout in a settlement in Suva, with plastic bottles or tied-up T-shirts for balls. His parents saved up enough money to buy their talented son a pair of rugby boots and he has repaid them many times over with a glittering career on the sevens circuit - he was nominated for world sevens player of the year last year - and a humility that sees him keep his gold medal at home with his father.

7. Perry Baker, US American speedster Baker was named 2017 world sevens player of the year thanks to a series-topping haul of 57 tries, 76 clean breaks, and 285 points. As a 21-year-old American football player Baker was destined for an NFL career, signing with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. A knee injury cruelled his chances and the wiry 20-something picked up rugby in his hometown Daytona Beach, in Florida. He played sevens for Fairmont University while studying for a degree in criminal justice and was later spotted by US coach Mike Friday. It didn't take long for the player nicknamed 'Speed Stick' to make a mark, picking up the 2014-15 rookie of the year title, top try scorer in the 2015/16 series and last year's string of accolades.

This story Seven of the best: the world's top sevens players first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.