It’s all about the maths.
Yes, there is one round left to play in the Women’s World Series and it is mathematically possible for New Zealand to take top spot in the standings and therefore the title, but it would require Australia to metaphorically ‘not field a team’ in France; add to that the fact that the Kiwis have uncharacteristically not won a tournament this series having won four out of six last season.
A tournament win in the Women’s series is worth 20 points; 18 points for the runners-up, 16 for third place, 14 for fourth place and so on.
Australia is currently in the lead on top of the Series ladder -- with three tournaments wins and a third place in Canada -- by a margin of 12 points over arch rivals and reigning World Champions New Zealand; with a further four points to England, which has jumped Canada into third place with the victory in Langford.
For a twelve point deficit to be overcome, New Zealand need to win in France and Australia cannot do better than eighth (in a twelve team competition) to prevent them from retaining top spot and taking the Championship at the end of May.
Now understandably, Tim Walsh will not want to count his chickens before they hatch, but the prospect of achieving the first of his two goals for 2016 is certainly looming.
The path to Rio has been a three year plan and even if perfection is an illusion this Australian women’s team has had as close to a perfect run as is possible to this point and leading into the inaugural Sevens Olympic campaign in Rio in August. All Walsh’s boxes are being ticked and the process-driven strategies the coaching staff have employed are looking more and more like the recipe to success in the Women’s sevens mix.
The beauty of the hit-out in Canada for the Aussies has been the exploration of young talent by Walsh.
Becoming known for his talent development initiatives and desire to rotate numbers, giving new players as much exposure as possible, he found the right balance in the squad numbers between wise heads and youthful enthusiasm.
Initially it seemed a gamble to leave out the stars of Atlanta – Tonegato, Caslick and Quirk. But, as if determined to reward the faith the coach was showing in them, the likes of Ciesiolka, Du Toit, Friedrichs and Walker stood up to be counted and the coach gave them plenty of game time to prove their worth. They were ably guided by the intermittent presence of the current captain Shannon Parry and veterans Amy Turner, Chloe Dalton and particularly playmakers Emilee Cherry and Nicole Beck whose combination work was a lesson to the young ones in itself.
While the Australian team would be disappointed to have missed out on a berth in the Cup final in Canada, the overall choice to seize the opportunity to blood new young players at the highest level of competition cannot be faulted in the larger scheme. The timing was perfect and it’s a certainty that Walsh will be going with the full force of the core squad to Clermont-Ferrand: firstly to draw an emphatic line under the 2015/2016 series and secondly to use it as a psychological launch pad for the intervening two months until August 3 in Rio.
So while the results in Langford whet the appetite for an exciting finish to the series in France, they possibly have more significance as an insight into the progress of many of the teams as they all try to time their form for the Olympics campaign with England now looking like the strongest threat to the Australians at this stage and France perhaps emerging as the biggest dark horse.
As for the Australians – they will come home now for a well-earned rest and to continue their training towards sealing what some might think is the inevitable result in Clermont-Ferrand in five weeks’ time.
But we’re pretty sure you can at least put the champagne on ice!