Rhiannon Byers’ sensational form for the UNE Lions in the Uni 7s series hasn’t gone unnoticed by national selectors.
After being invited to do some training with the Australian squad, the Inverell star learnt at the Gold Coast leg on the weekend that she has been selected in the Australian women’s senior squad for the Oceania Sevens tournament.
Lions coach Ross Duncan said it was well-deserved.
“It’s a credit to the way she has been playing and also the amount of work she’s been doing on her game,” he said.
She has really stepped up to be a key player for them, he said, and was at the Brisbane tournament named in the team of the tournament.
“She’s another weapon and if we can play with Maya (Stewart) on one side and Rhiannon on the other side it will be great football to watch, and we really are an attacking threat on both sides,” Duncan said.
Stewart, who has been named in the Australian Youth squad, was outstanding on the weekend, scoring 13 tries including a remarkable four hat-tricks.
The Lions had their best tournament to date finishing fifth but were left to wonder what could have been after finishing equal top of their pool with the University of Queensland and Macquarie University but just missing out their first semi-finals appearance for this year’s competition on for and against.
A poor second half against Macquarie in their opening game cost the Lions, the defensive work they had to do in the first half taking it’s toll.
“We were in a tussle with them, and went from being in a tussle to giving up 30-odd points in the second half,” Duncan said.
“That was the difference between us finishing in the the top four and not.”
He was though “incredibly proud” of the way they played over the weekend and the resilience they showed to get back on track.
“The girls post that went five from five including beating UQ,” he said.
Their upset 24-17 win was their first over the perennial heavyweights, who sit second on the ladder.
Duncan said the fact that they missed out on the semi’s by such a bare margin did take a bit of the gloss off the win in the immediate aftermath.
“But they got back to work and came through the next two games,” he said.
He felt they really took “another couple of steps forward as a squad” on the Gold Coast.
Pirates’ star Miah O’Sullivan made her Lions debut and “went really well”.
”She was very composed and really filled that outside back role that we’ve been short of with confidence,” Duncan said.
The series finale will be held in Adelaide in two weeks.
The UNE Lions cubs meanwhile contested the Mudgee 7s where they were beaten in the semi-finals by the Manly Mermaids.