Emma Tonegato from the Australian women’s sevens team
Emma Tonegato from the Australian women’s sevens team

No more second best: Aussies eye sevens redemption

REDEMPTION is the focus as the Australian women's sevens team prepares to launch its World Series comeback at the Oceania Championship in Fiji from Friday.

After a brilliant 2015-16 season - in which Australia won Olympic gold and its first World Series title - they were forced to settle for second in 2016-17 as New Zealand reigned supreme.

Head coach Tim Walsh sets the highest of standards and has signalled his intentions by naming a full-strength line-up to defend their Oceania title ahead of the World Series opener in Dubai next month.

It will also mark an individual comeback for star player Emma Tonegato, who has returned to the squad after a long lay-off with a serious shoulder injury.

Speaking to foxsports.com.au after training in steamy Suva on Thursday, Tonegato said the Australians were relaxed and confident after addressing last season's shortcomings.

"We have gone back to the drawing board… everyone was pretty upset with our form last year," Tonegato said.

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Sevens star Emma Tonegato all glammed up ahead of the Rugby Australia awards.
Sevens star Emma Tonegato all glammed up ahead of the Rugby Australia awards.

READ MORE: Aussie men's sevens' Generation Next

"We have cut our squad down and we are really focusing on our performance.

"We've come up with different on-field tactics as well as off-field, so we are hoping we can get back on top of them (New Zealand) this season."

Walsh has also looked to bleed in some younger players for the tournament.

Page McGregor (Macquarie University) and Lauren Brown (Griffith University) are the two new kids on the block and will put on the green and gold jersey for their first official international caps in Fiji.

Both players earned their spots following strong performances in the inaugural Uni7's series before impressing again in friendlies against New Zealand in Bendigo last month.

Brown comes from a diverse sporting background, code-hopping across football, tennis and athletics before landing in rugby sevens.

Emma Tonegato of Australia scores a try in the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medal match.
Emma Tonegato of Australia scores a try in the 2016 Rio Olympics gold medal match.

"We haven't even noticed that they are new," Tonegato said. "They have had a seamless transition into the squad.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing what they've got… both girls played really well in the AON series and again in Bendigo."

Tonegato, a veteran of 17 World Series tournaments, proved her fitness with a hitout at the Central Coast Sevens last month.

Australia has a demanding day one draw on Friday, with pool games against Tonga, Samoa and Fiji.

The men's and women's championship will be streamed live across Oceania Rugby's digital channels.

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Sevens star Emma Tonegato all glammed up ahead of the Rugby Australia awards.
Sevens star Emma Tonegato all glammed up ahead of the Rugby Australia awards.

AUSTRALIA SQUAD

1. Shannon Parry (co-captain), 23 caps, Griffith University

2. Sharni Williams (co-captain), 22 caps, University of Canberra

3. Vani Pelite, 13 caps, University of Adelaide

4. Emma Tonegato, 17 caps, University of Adelaide

5. Lauren Brown*, Griffith University

6. Charlotte Caslick, 22 caps, Bond University

7. Alicia Quirk, 22 caps, University of New England

8. Emma Sykes, 5 caps, University of Queensland

9. Page McGregor*, Macquarie University

10. Mahalia Murphy, 7 caps, University of Adelaide

11. Dominque Du Toit, 5 caps, Macquarie University

12. Emilee Cherry, 24 caps, University of Queensland

*Uncapped

AUSTRALIA'S POOL FIXTURES (all Friday)

Australia v Tonga, 9am AEST

Australia v Samoa, noon AEST

Australia v Fiji, 3pm AEST



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