The First Nations Sevens men’s and women’s teams made their national debut over the weekend at one of the toughest tournaments outside of the Sydney Sevens and Sevens World Series.
The Western Sydney 7s tournament saw 24 up-and-coming Indigenous rugby players compete in front of thousands of fans battling it out for the Diggers Cup and $3,000 - $5,000 in prize money.
Surviving the first three rounds and making it into the finals, the women’s First Nations Sevens went up against the undefeated Maroubra Magic, who also won last years' competition. Competing for $3,000 in prize money, the team went down 22-5 to a scintillating Maroubra outfit.
Halfback and hooker of the women’s team, Courtney Currie, told NITV News the loss did not dishearten their spirits.
“I think we had a good chance once we got the feel a little bit… [but the loss] is just the starting stone for us really, we can only go better and bigger from there,” she said.
“I think they have a very strong reputation considering how good they are and definitely being our first time playing together we were very nervous.”
The women had never played together in the same team before the tournament, and only met for the first time a few weeks ago.
“It was very hard to get the feel of each other but we also worked very well with each other,” she said.
Ms Currie, a Worimi woman, said the inaugural team is an “amazing opportunity to showcase the raw talent” that First Nations peoples offer the code.
The First Nations Sevens men's team also fell short of winning the event but were able to claim the second most honourary prize of the tournament - the silver plate - against the West Coast Drifters winning 26-19.
The Fijian Tabadamu men’s rugby team were crowned champions of the tournament winning the 2019 Diggers Cup and $5,000 in prize money against Nabua, winning 19-12.
Coach of the First Nations Sevens men's and women's teams Jarred Hodges said that despite not taking out the tournament, he was proud of his teams.
"It was a proud moment, a historic government... an immense amount of pride went into assembling those two teams," he said.
"What was super pleasing, particularly with the girls, we had 8 players from all different communities. So, to see the girls gel very quickly... they really represented with honour."
Mr Hodges has travelled through 90 Indigenous communities over the past year in his current capacity as the First Nations Rugby Manager as part of the Dream Bigtime tour.
He said this was to "increase access to the game" in the hope to have at least four Indigenous players selected in the Australian rugby league team at the 2024 Olympics.
Both First Nations Sevens teams will head to Darwin later this month to compete at the Hottest 7s tournament.