The SVNS Series for 2023-24 is done and dusted. All the focus is now on the big prize for 2024, the Olympics.

At the Madrid Grand Final the France men and Australia women were crowned the HSBC SVNS 2024 Champions. France beat Argentina 19-5 and Australia defeated France 26-7.

Both French teams are looking pretty good for their home Olympics.

In other news, USA, Kenya, Uruguay and Spain qualified for the men’s HSBC SVNS 2025 Series. While China, Spain, Japan and Brazil qualified for the women’s HSBC SVNS 2025.

If you want a chuckle, France’s Antoine Dupont won the SVNS 2024 ‘Rookie of the Year’ award. But on a serious note, he has transitioned brilliantly to the sevens game.

Australian Sevens – Women

No need to go through the Madrid tournament game by game but if you have not seen them, I strongly recommend watching the semi-final against the Kiwis and the final against the French.

Instead, here are eight random observations, in no particular order.

1) At this tournament the women’s defence appeared to have lifted significantly and most importantly the tackle technique has improved markedly. No cards over the weekend. (As a reminder Sariah Paki did miss the first game as she had a suspension to finish.)

2) The players (and coaching staff) are adapting and performing exceptionally well considering the number of injuries to key players.

3) Both Bella Nasser and Paki have stepped up considerably and had excellent tournaments. They have big engines and do a lot of the dirty work in the middle. It is so valuable to have Bienne Terita back and coming off the bench. With ball in hand, she draws so many tacklers and opens up opportunities. Also Paki has become a bit of a star with the restarts. They are not just relying on Maddi Levi.

MADRID, SPAIN - JUN 01: Maddison Levi of Australia (L) in action with the ball against Chloe Jacquet of France (R) during Madrid Rugby Sevens at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium on Jun 01, 2024 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Alberto Gardin/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

Maddison Levi. (Photo by Alberto Gardin/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

4) Teagan Levi is a real hybrid of a player. She is ferocious in the tackle but also can run and have a play maker role. One must also mention she is more than a bit feisty. Not sure if she gives a bit of lip but is more than happy to be involved in a bit of push and shove. No doubt living up to her nickname ‘Pitty’ as in pitbull.

5) Tia Hinds who seemed to be on the outer (or injured) has made every post a winner since she came back into the side at Vancouver. She may not have the speed of the injured Madison Ashby but is a smart player and complements Charlotte Caslick very well. Also her goal kicking has been outstanding. The two conversions in the semi-final were clutch.

6) Maddi Levi, no surprise, was named the Series’ top try scorer for the season, as she was last year. It was also mentioned during the French Pool game her four tries was the fourth time she has scored more than three tries in a game. That is more than any other player. Then in the final a hattrick for the 13th time.

7) Attitude. In the Kiwi semi-final with 40 seconds to go Faith Nathan scores, is lying on the ground absolutely exhausted. (During the tournament Nathan put in a huge shift.) Teagan Levi grabs the ball for the conversion and pulls Nathan up. The message, ‘we need to keep going, I will help you up there is still time to score again and win’. And that was the case. The restart, there was zero seconds on the clock. Maddi Levi knocks back the ball at the restart, they retain possession for 80 seconds of extra time for Maddi Levi to score. Icing on top, Hinds kicks conversion from to the sideline.

8) Lastly, the newbie youngsters, credit to them, while used sparingly when they came on they know their roles and execute them. The squad is building some real depth.

No write up can go by without a reference or 40 regarding Caslick. There were a couple of plays that showed how competitive and tenacious she really is. She has developed into a real leader.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

In the Pool game against the France, Caslick made an outstanding one-on-one tackle on Anne-Cécile Ciofani, only a couple of metres from the tryline, stopping a certain try. At the time there was only 44 seconds to go in the match and Australia was up 14 points. Even at that stage of the game a desperate effort, she does not leave anything to chance. Great leadership with her actions.

Then in the final, again against the French. It is the final 40 seconds of the match and Australia was up 19-7. All the players exhausted. Australia received a penalty, Hinds signalled slow to it down, run down the clock for the win. Instead Caslick tooks a quick tap and passed to Maddi Levi, to score.

Caslick just goes flat out until the end of every game.

The women sure deserve a bit of a break.

For the Olympics the women’s squad seems pretty locked in. It is very unfortunate but having three players out with injury means the selections are a little easier. Assuming a squad of 13, Sharni Smale comes back in and Alysia Lefau-Fakaosilea does also, it really only leaves maybe only one spot.

Australian Sevens – Men

The Aussie men’s performance in Madrid was in some ways reflective of their season. It was consistently inconsistent. Some games and tournaments it all clicked and in others it would go a bit pear shaped. You just never quite know what you were going to get.

That is a bit like the SVNS Series overall. There were lots of surprises during the season. Madrid, it is just the top eight, was even tougher than usual. The Aussie men had both the finalists France and Argentina in their Pool.

The men went into Madrid fourth in the standings and finished the tournament with a seventh. This season they have had two seconds, two fourths, three sevenths and a tenth.

So in 50 per cent of tournaments they are well and truly in the mix for medals. The season is probably a pass or a pass+. It maybe a rough assessment, last season they finished in fifth, this season fourth. Then again this season they did not win a tournament while last year they did plus they achieved Olympic qualification.

As the Madrid tournament went straight from Pools into semi-finals teams could not really lose a game and if they did it could not be a heavy loss. Unfortunately, the Aussie men started as poorly as possible against the French. They put 38 points on the Aussies. So from the get-go they were on the backfoot. In their third match to qualify for the semi-final they had to not just win against Argentina but win by 34 points. That was not going to happen.

So not a flash weekend for the men.

Obviously the Aussie men missed Maurice Longbottom and again seem to be missing some additional out and out pace. James Turner has pace but doesn’t seem to split the opposition like a Darby Lancaster or Corey Toole were able to. (Fingers crossed Turner is OK he seemed to injure his shoulder in the final game.) The return from injury of Josh Turner was good to see, he had some quality touches. Since his selection in Vancouver, have to say Michael Icely adds a bit coming off the bench, he has some size to him.

Looking at the various squads that have been selected over the season there are probably only one or two Olympic spots up for grabs. I think I recall Coach Manenti saying he has eight or nine spots pretty much locked for the Olympics, I reckon it would be more like 10 or 11.

Both teams head back to the training paddock and no doubt some practice games. We await for both Olympic teams to be announced at the end of the month.

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