‘Big Girl’ Paki poised to be next big thing in sevens

She is the baby they call 'Big Girl', the youngest ever player to compete for Australia in the Sevens World Series and a talent from which big things are expected in the future.

But Sydney teenager Sariah Paki has her feet firmly planted in the present, with her eyes on a maiden home tournament and the chance to announce her arrival on the global sevens circuit.

Youn gun: Aged just 17, ‘Big Girl’ Sariah Paki is tipped to be a sensation in women’s sevens.Credit:Nick Moir

"She's got very good instincts around the game, in contact, when to carry, when to pass. She's not a big girl but she loves playing like a big girl," Australian women's coach John Manenti said.

"When I spoke to her in our first one-on-one before the game, I said to her, 'What do you want to bring?' and she said, 'I just want to play like a big girl'. It's a good way to start."

No better place to start than the Sydney Sevens at Spotless Stadium on Friday, when the Aussie men and women mount their title defence at Olympic Park.

It will be Paki's second World Series appearance, coming mere months after Manenti offered the Dee Why 17-year-old a development contract with the national program and her first taste of competition in a development side at the Oceania 7s in November.

She was playing for Australia in Dubai two weeks later after injury claimed regular starters Shannon Parry and Demi Hayes. The coach liked what he saw from the tough and aggressive young forward, handing her a start this weekend.

Paki said she was not fazed by the standard of competition on the women's World Series circuit and just wanted to prove her value up front.

"I want to play that big girl role, to go forward and bring the team along and hopefully knock down some players," she said.

"I just like hitting them to be honest, I was a league player as well, so more tackling. I love that contact."

The 'Big Girl' nickname goes back much further than the Aussie 7s set up, to Paki's roots in touch football and rugby league.

"I was more of the bigger type girl out of all of those little girls in touch and they couldn't say my name properly so I just said 'call me Big Girl, I don't care'," she said. "They all loved it and I brought it in here."

Ensconced now in the team set up, Paki is bringing fresh energy and grit to the Australian squad, which still boasts a handful of 2016 Olympic gold medallists alongside a smattering of younger players.

Manenti, busy ushering forth the next generation, said the home tournament was a chance for the squad to show they had evolved beyond the triumphs of Rio and last year's history-making run to the Sydney Sevens title.

Paki, 17, is the youngest player to have represented Australia in the Sevens World Series. Credit:Nick Moir

"Every tournament is a chance for the players to step up, but we're now another tournament in, we don't have any debutants for the first time in a while.

"Everyone's had some experience and I'd like to hope that the work we're putting in with these girls will show some benefits this week."

If all goes to plan, Paki and her contemporaries, including Lily Dick and Page McGregor, will bank enough experience over the next 18 months to take centre stage at the Olympics in Tokyo next year, alongside their superstar team mates Charlotte Caslick, Ellia Green and Emma Tonegato.

While Paki is only at the beginning of her sevens career, her early efforts suggest she has a bright future.

"She will benefit from being in the program down the track because she's still only been lifting weights for a short time," Manenti said.

"At 17, 18 years of age she's got a lot of footy to play but at the moment she's handling the environment really well."

The Aussie women's day 1 draw at the Sydney Sevens:
1.50pm Australia vs Spain
4.34pm Australia vs China
6.56pm Australia vs USA
(all times AEDT)

Source: Read Full Article