Rugby union: Twin caps big week with sevens call-up

SIX OF THE BEST: Hunter players Leilani Nathan, Britney Duff, Nicole Nathan, May Stewart, Anika Butler and Emma Bradford are in the University of New England squad to contest the AON Sevens series in Adelaide this weekend.
SIX OF THE BEST: Hunter players Leilani Nathan, Britney Duff, Nicole Nathan, May Stewart, Anika Butler and Emma Bradford are in the University of New England squad to contest the AON Sevens series in Adelaide this weekend.

HAMILTON breakaway Leilani Nathan will cap an incredible week when she makes her debut for University of England against Canberra in the AON Uni Sevens in Adelaide on Saturday.

Nathan, who on Sunday was named the NSW Country Corellas player of the year, will join five other Hunter players, including her twin Nicole, Britney Duff, Maya Stewart, Anika Butler and Emma Bradford in the UNE side for the third round of the series.

It is the largest number of players the Hunter has supplied for a round.

"Leilani is having a cracker of a week," Hunter coach and UNE assistant Will Scully said. "She has been knocking on the door and deserves an opportunity. To have six of the 12 girls in the squad is a great achievement and we could have had a couple more. Tahlia Goldsmith has been involved earlier in the campaign and was unlucky. Dutch No.8 Leah van Zeeland is also in the squad, but you are only allowed to use two imports and she was muscled out by a couple of Dutch buddies."

UNE have been drawn in a pool alongside series-leaders Queensland, Canberra, UTS and Bond University.

Nicole Nathan and Bradford made their series debut last round and along with Leilani have come through from the Hunter youth program.

"They have been pushing each other since 2016, initially at junior reps," Scully said. "The three have pushed each other through senior rep, senior sevens and elite sevens. If one of them do an extra field session, normally all three of them are. They are good mates and have a real competitive, friendly drive."

UNE have struggled for consistency in the opening two rounds of the series, but Scully is confident of a strong showing in Adelaide.

"They led Griffith Uni and only lost by two points last round," Scully said. They were one of three teams who won one game, but had the worst differential so they dropped down the rankings. The younger girls who have now played a round or two are really starting to develop and show a bit of maturity. Despite it being a young team going to Adelaide, I'm pretty sure they will crack the top five.

"I am really proud of how the Hunter girls approach the ruck at sevens. They are very strong and make good decisions. Britney has been a round for a long time and is an older head around the younger ones. She will steer the girls around and link up well with Maya."

Meanwhile, the Hunter will have five teams, including one representing the Hawthorne Club academy, contesting NSW State sevens age boys and girls championships this weekend.

This story Twin caps big week with sevens call-up first appeared on Newcastle Herald.