Aussie team improves with Alex
WOLLONGBAR-Alstonville junior Alex Gibbon overcame an ankle injury to play in the Australian rugby union team which reached the semi-finals of the HSBC Sydney Sevens.
Gibbon played in every game after injury forced him from the field at Wellington the previous weekend.
The Australian team were beaten 26-12 in the semi-final against eventual winners South Africa and lost 29-14 in the bronze medal match against New Zealand.
It was a big improvement for the young side after a 10th placed finish at Wellington which included a loss against Kenya.
Gibbon is one of the more experienced players in the team and was sorely missed at the back end of the New Zealand tournament.
"I'm really proud of them, and the first-timers all impressed me,” coach Andy Friend said. "They showed some really special touches and it wasn't through lack of effort that we didn't get further.
"Sevens is about being physically fit and mentally fit and they got put in some positions they've never been in before.
"We had bodies behind the scenes that were pretty sore and pretty broken but they got themselves up, and that's part of being a sevens player.
"You've got to learn to deal with that and the longer they're in the program, the better.”
Several senior players are expected to return from injury in time for the next tournament at Las Vegas next month.
Friend said he was looking forward to the renewed internal competition for starting berths.
"Just because you're a contracted player doesn't mean you get a start,” he said.
"Senior players have to fight hard to get those young blokes out now, which makes it really healthy for the squad. Once you've got that competition from within, good things happen.”