On Tuesday August 9th, 2016, Rugby in Australia changed forever.
The Australian Women’s Rugby Sevens team won the first ever Olympic Gold Medal in the sport’s history, rightfully placing the sport in the spotlight it so thoroughly deserved, and inspiring the next generation of Australian Rugby stars, including a then 21-year-old Lauren Brown.
“I remember watching the game in the early hours of the morning, waking up to watch the girls win,” Brown tells RUPA, after playing her part in the team securing qualification for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo earlier this month at the Biarritz Sevens.
“I was just starting to get into playing Rugby Sevens myself around that time, and I remmeber thinking about what a special moment it was for them and for the sport in general. Afterwards, you just saw the sport take off and so many more opportunities open up, and I definitely thought to myself that it would be amazing to be a part of something like that one day.”
She is most definitely ‘part of it’ now, after signing with the Australian Sevens following an impressive campaign in the inaugural AON University Sevens Series in 2017 and having just finished her second World Rugby Sevens series with the team.
“I definitely wouldn’t have imagined that so many of those Rio 2016 girls would become my teammates, and some of my really good mates,” she says.
“I always think about looking back and watching these girls on telly, and now I’m having a laugh with them at training; sometimes it’s a bit of a ‘pinch yourself’ kind of moment. We’ve still got that core group of girls, and it’s great to have their experience within our group. They know how to prepare for an Olympic Games, and I think that will be vital for the next twelve months heading into Tokyo.”
Being crowned World Champion in her first season, with Brown featuring in three tournaments after making her debut in Kitakyushu (Japan), 2018-19 has been a tougher campaign for Lauren.
“I was unlucky enough to break my leg in the AON Uni 7s, and as a result I pretty much started this season on the back foot trying to get back to full fitness. From there it was just a case of working really hard to get back into that squad of twelve.
“In saying that, it’s still been a really good second year and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to three tournaments, twice as thirteenth player, but then to be in the twelve and see some game time in Biarritz.
“The last time I’d actually played on the series was also in France, twelve months prior in Paris, so it was good to see how far I have developed in a year. There’s a lot of competition in our squad which made it tough to get back into the squad, but it was awesome to finish the season back in there and It was a great reward for all of the hard work.”
Training full-time without a World Series tournament for twelve months would be an exceptionally challenging experience for an athlete, but rather than being rusty Lauren said she actually felt more at home when she did take the field.
“I felt really good out there, more comfortable and confident, and I think that comes down to having spent another year training day in, day out with these girls and knowing what they’re going to do next.
"Being used to being around them – it was a great experience, there was an awesome crowd and atmosphere, and I really enjoyed it a lot.”
It was a transitional year for the squad, finishing fourth on the World Series as they used nineteen players, including seven players in their first or second season on the circuit; Brown, Rhiannon Byers, Lily Dick, Page McGregor, Yasmin Meakes, Sariah Paki and Samantha Treherne.
Next year, the World Series will expand from five tournaments to eight, and with then Olympics at the end of it, it’s fair to say Lauren is excited for what’s to come. In another boost for the game, the nationally contracted players are slated to play in two of the four rounds of the AON Uni Sevens in coming months.
“Frothing is the best way to put it when it comes to next year! There’s going to be more chances to play, and with the Olympics at the end of it that’s really exciting and I can’t wait to hopefully play lots of footy.
“We were a bit disappointed obviously with how we finished in Biarritz (losing in the Cup Quarter Final to Spain), but we did secure that Olympic qualification which was the most important thing and it’s a bit of a relief that we can start our preparations and the hard work for the Tokyo now.
“We’ve got some girls coming back from injury at the start of the season, and then ‘Chezzy’ (Emilee Cherry) coming back after she has her baby which is really exciting, and I’m sure there will be plenty more debutants next season too. The squad is in an exciting phase and there’s lots of opportunities for girls to put their hands up.
“Playing in AON to start the season will be awesome, it’s such a good platform and it was my personal springboard into my career with the Aussie Sevens. The standard is increasing at every tournament, and all of the girls are excited to be able to play in a couple of rounds - there will be some great banter I’m sure.”
One thing Lauren is yet to tick off is playing her home tournament, and she is hopefully of being selected for the Sydney Sevens in January.
“The chance to play on home soil in an Aussie journey would be right up there with some of my personal highlights thus far, and it’s definitely a big goal for me to play in front of my family and friends. It would be a very special moment.”
Away from Rugby, Gold Coast-born and raised Lauren seeks out the ocean, while she also already has one eye on life after footy.
“I graduated Uni with a Bachelor of Business just before I was signed full-time, which was excellent timing. I’ve got a couple of non-footy dreams, one being to own my own business, but my main one is to be a firefighter so I’m starting to tick off little things towards that.
“Away from footy, I just like to go to the beach and surf and play a bit of guitar.”
So, could she maybe make a cameo on stage at this year’s RUPA Awards?
“I can’t sing, so I’d have to sign up a vocalist - Vani (Pelite) has a good voice, so I’ll nominate her!”