The Adelaide University Roma’s have made three changes to the squad which finished 5th in round 2 of the Aon Uni7’s series on the Gold Coast.
The Roma’s will be fully focussed on tidying up small errors in their game, after 2 draws in pool games a fortnight ago deprived them of a semi final berth and the opportunity to compete for a medal.
Round 3 holds extra significance for the side, who will host the tournament in their home city, with matches to be played at their training ground, Graduates Oval.
Coach James O’Keefe says the opportunity to play at home is a particularly important one, and something the entire squad and coaching staff is looking forward to.
“It’s the most important weekend of our 2019 campaign,” the coach says.
“We’ve hosted once before, last year, and we narrowly missed out on a Bronze medal, so we are obviously hoping to improve on that result… the aim this year is a medal.”
He has identified a strong start in the opening weekends opening exchanges as particularly important, something which alluded the Roma’s on the Gold Coast.
“We will look to set ourselves up early on in the tournament for a top four placing… ideally, setting up day 1, we need 2 wins early on to set us up for the finals come Sunday afternoon,” O’Keefe says.
First up, the team faces Sydney University, the team that deprived them of a Bronze medal in the corresponding round last year. Then, they face familiar foe and round 2 champion Griffith University.
The Roma’s were beaten by the Queenslanders in a heartbreaking last-minute finish in round 1, before drawing with them in round 2, and O’Keefe says the girls are primed for another fierce contest.
“We are obviously looking to go one better against them. It’s just a small part of execution, if we can fix a couple of small areas, hopefully that will get us through and to the win,” he says.
The Roma’s finish their opening day against the University of Melbourne. They are yet to taste defeat at the hands of the Victorians this year, but the coach has warned against complacency against the talented outfit.
“We will be looking to take them on directly and continue our form against them, but we aren’t underestimating the quality they have,” O’Keefe says.
Sunday’s final pool game sees the team take on the University of Western Australia, before the semi finals and final on the Sunday afternoon.
Selection for the home round has provided its share of headaches for the coaching staff, who have had a number of players feeling the lasting effects of a taxing round 2 and under injury clouds.
Key players Alice Gregory, Ellie Konopka and Lauren Meyer have been ruled out. Their absence will undoubtedly be felt, but O’Keefe says it provides a chance for others to shine on the home stage.
“Three pretty significant losses, all three are very valuable in their own right, but that gives an opportunity to bring other players in, and we are really confident they will do a good job,” he says.
Brianna Nathan has overcome the calf injury that kept her out of the Gold Coast round. She is joined in the squad by Rebekah Jones and Courtney Munro.
“Courtney’s only started the 7s this year and we’ve seen good development in her, so we are going to give her a shot,” O’Keefe says.
Rebecca is another inclusion… we set her a couple of challenges early in the season and she’s steadily progressing in the last couple of weeks she’s really shone, and she’s earnt her spot and we are excited to see what she can do.”
The side will be led in round 3 by d’Arcy Sadler. The coach expects Sadler to flourish in the leadership and says the side will be looking to her nous and experience to guide them through the challenges of the tournament, in particular when fatigue sets in during the latter stages of matches.
“She’s a former Aussies 7s professional player, has played in the World Series, and we are really using her to make sure we are still in contention and can make good decisions come the end of the half,” O’Keefe says.
The side will equally call on the expertise of experienced Welsh duo Jasmine Joyce and Hannah Jones, who’s combination was the cornerstone of much of the sides attacking success in round 2.
O’Keefe says he was pleased with the way the internationals linked up in round 2, and he expects them to play an integral part in the Roma’s medal push this weekend.
“Jaz, she’s been awesome, scored 12 or 13 tries, so easy decision, she picks herself with that sort of form. Hannah, too, had a great round 2, had a lot of involvements and a high work rate so we are looking to again, build a combination with those two.”
The squad will relish the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd. O’Keefe paid tribute to the enthusiastic support the team received at home last year, and says he expects them to thrive in similar conditions on the weekend.
“Yeah there was quite a vocal crowd last year… a lot of the girls friends will come out to watch them play, which will be good. We don’t get the opportunity to play at home that much, so it will be great for them,” he says.
The tournament kicks off at 9am on Saturday. Roma’s game times are listed below.
Game 1 vs University of Sydney
Kick-off: Saturday 12 October 9.20 am
Game 2 vs Griffith University
Kick-off: Saturday 12 October 11.00 am
Game 3 vs University of Melbourne
Kick-off: Saturday 12 October 1.20 pm
Game 4 vs University of Western Australia
Kick-off: Sunday 13 October 9.00 am
Kick-off: Sunday 13 October, from 11.00 am
Kick-off: Sunday 13 October, from 1.00 pm