Australian rugby taking ‘enormous steps’ into the future

(CNN)On and off the field, Australian rugby is breaking new ground.

Last year, Raelene Castle became the first woman to head up any rugby organization when she was unveiled as the new CEO of Rugby Australia.
Shortly afterward, Australia’s male and female sevens players were granted pay parity on what was declared a “great day for women’s sport.”
    And then, in January, Australia’s women made history in Sydney by becoming the first team to win a Sevens World Series event without conceding a single point.
    For Castle, the women’s success on the field helped pave the way for the advances made off it, most notably in pay parity.

    Eye on the future

    The first women’s Sevens World Series took place in 2012-13 and Australia became the first nation other than New Zealand to lift the title in 2016. This season’s competition takes in five venues with Australia well positioned to claim its second crown.
    This year there’s the added incentive of a World Cup in July, hosted by the USA in San Francisco, and the Commonwealth Games, hosted in Australia’s Gold Coast.

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    A healthy position to be in, but getting there hasn’t necessarily been easy. Even Tim Walsh, coach of the women’s sevens team, was forced to reassess his rugby values.
    “Seven years ago I was offered the coach and I said ‘no, I’m not coaching women’s rugby,'” he admitted.
    “The whole world is seeing what amazing athletes and rugby players the women are. They’re basically opening up a whole new genre and a whole new market to world rugby.”

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