10 May 2017: Olympic gold medallist Sharni Williams will lead the newly-formed University of Canberra women’s sevens team in this year’s inaugural Uni 7s Series.
Williams was unveiled as the side’s marquee player on Wednesday after members of the national squad were divided up for the new competition.
The 29-year-old will be joined in the nation’s capital by Australian teammate Brooke Anderson, with the campaign kicking off in August.
Williams played a key role in Australia’s historic gold medal victory at last year’s Rio Olympics, co-captaining the side which was crowned the first ever Olympic women’s rugby sevens champions.
It was a dream come true for the former mechanic, whose rugby career started late at the age of 20. She moved from Batlow in country New South Wales to Canberra on a hockey scholarship but ended up focusing on rugby.
Williams said playing for the University of Canberra would give her an opportunity to give back to the city that sparked her love of the game.
“It’s a good way to be able to show my support for Canberra rugby,” Williams said.
“Canberra gave me the opportunity to play. I’ll never forget that and I think this competition is a good chance to show my appreciation for the opportunities it has given me.”
The University of Canberra is one of eight Australian universities set to contest the first women’s domestic sevens competition, which aims to propel the sport further into the spotlight following Australia’s triumph in Rio.
Williams and Anderson will form the cornerstone of the University’s squad, with the remaining members of the side to be selected from Canberra’s local competition.
“This competition is a huge step forward for women’s rugby sevens,” Williams said. “To be combining the professional and grassroots levels of the game is only going to be beneficial for our game.
“To have the University of Canberra jump on board is great. It’s going to give local players the opportunity to play in a high-quality tournament and assist them in chasing their dreams of playing professionally.”
Williams cut her teeth in the local 15-a-side competition with the Canberra Royals Rugby Union Club before being selected to play for Australia after just seven games.
In 2012, she made her debut for the national women’s sevens team and hasn’t looked back.
Anderson made her national sevens debut in 2013 and co-captained Australia’s junior side during its gold medal-winning campaign at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing the following year.
The 21-year-old was also part of the senior side’s campaign at the Pacific Games in 2015 – at which it finished runner-up.
University of Canberra Union Chief Executive Officer Joe Roff said Williams and Anderson were the ideal players to build the University’s side around.
“We have signed two exceptional players in Sharni and Brooke,” Roff said. “Both women have experience at the highest level of the game and are proven performers.
“They have big game experience and have helped develop a winning culture in Australia’s national set-up. We have a strong pool of local players to choose from and Sharni and Brooke will be great mentors to those women.”
The University of Canberra will appoint its head coach in the coming weeks.