JAKIYA Whitfeld only played her first senior game of women’s sevens rugby this season, but come the weekend the Bathurst teenager will be representing her country.
The 17-year-old has been named in the final 12-player Australian squad which will compete at this weekend’s Oceania Sevens in Fiji, continuing her meteoric rise in the sport.
While Whitfeld’s chance comes thanks to a number of Australia’s regulars being absent – Page McGregor, Cassie Staples and Lily Dick the only fully fledged national players in the squad – national coach John Manenti is keen to see her in action.
“Sariah Paki and Jakiya Whitfeld have been in our youth development programs and I’m keen to see how they adapt to international rugby following on from two very strong seasons of Aon Sevens,” he told rugby.com.au
“The Aon University Sevens Series allowed us to see some fantastic players in proper series conditions and the seven players we are taking to Fiji have the chance now to really step up in the gold jersey.”
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As Manenti hinted, form players showed in the Aon Seven Series played an important role in determining the final make-up of the Oceania Sevens team.
Whitfeld was a standout for Sydney University in the five-round competition which featured 10 outfits.
Her speed and strength saw her pick up a host of tries – including length of the field efforts – as Sydney Uni finished in fourth place. It also led to her getting the chance to represent her country at a senior level.
“It’s probably my greatest achievement so far. I’m just really happy that I’m getting something out of the work and it’s going to be a great experience,” she said after learning of her selection.
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She and her Australia team-mates will face Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Nauru in pool A.
“For the team, being able to play in Suva is going to be quite an experience. We know how much sevens is a religion in Fiji and the team is looking forward to the experience,” Manenti said.
The selection in the open side comes after Whitfeld played in the Oceania Under 18s Rugby Sevens Championships earlier this year.