Sharni Williams has got the 2024 Olympics firmly in her sights as the Sevens legend reflects on a whirlwind 12 months.
The 34-year-old became just the second Australian alongside Charlotte Caslick to win at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Rugby Sevens World Cup and the World Series as the team completed the 'Triple Crown' in 2022.
This was coupled with a brief stint with the Wallaroos, guiding them to their best result since 2010.
“Taking all three was something to be really proud as an Aussie but even for Rugby, it isn’t our top sport here in Australia and we need to get it back on the map," Williams said
“I think we can hold ourselves really proud of all our efforts last year.”
Williams will be 36 at the Paris Games but has shown no sign of slowing down, named Player of the Final during September's Sevens World Cup in Cape Town.
“It’s not out of my reach at all,” she believes.
“Being respectful of the team, I’m still up there with the top girls so I’ll continue to put my foot out there and give everything for that.
“The story I’ve been able to write already is something this little country kid could never have thought of.
“If it ends, it ends and we’ll call it quits but I’m just enjoying every moment because you don’t know when it’s going to happen.”
You'd struggle to find a teammate with a bad word to say about Williams.
Whilst she doesn't lead them out anymore, the stalwart is a key leader in a youthful squad that cherish and absorb every piece of wisdom she delivers.
“Without her, there is a bit of a hole. When she wasn’t around on 15s, we were all standing around like ‘we’re missing something’ and as soon as she came back, the team felt grounded again,” Madison Ashby notes.
“She makes sure she is the hardest worker in her position and she told me how she studies herself and every single one of us players to know how we play so she can play off us.
“She does all her recovery and food right outside of footy which I reckon is helping her now. When she plays with us, she brings that different dynamic that us young girls aren’t able to bring yet.
“Sharni has that experience and humility that makes our team who we are.”
“We say she's like a bottle of wine, she gets finer with age,” fellow young gun Maddison Levi said.
“I’m 20, been in the program for a year and my body is already aching and tired (laughs) but for her to go for so many years and put on a show and still make Dream Teams, she’s one of the driving forces of our team.
“To have her still playing is an inspiration for the younger ones and makes me look like a sook after complaining after one year. She definitely helps us and the knowledge she has learnt over the years has helped our team continue to grow.
“It’s pretty exciting to see if she can still do at 34, what we can do.”
Williams took time to praise the influence of Head of Athletic Performance Tom Carter and soon-to-be wife Mel in keeping her fresh and continuing to hit personal bests on and off the field.
“It’s about being ok with yourself," she believes
“I do a lot of work on myself and with my family and soon-to-be-wife Mel, she’s my number one person and I can confide to her in everything and she’s able to get me through.
“I’ve got some great people and support around me like Tommy Carter (Head of Athletic Performance) changing my whole game and physique, (Tim) Walshy trusting me and keeping me from 2016 as we reminisce on a gold medal and wanting to do it again.
“It’s not just me on my own, there are people around me that are helping me live this dream and succeed. They will be the people that will be and always are thanked at the end of a tournament when you’ve had either a win and success or you’re down in the dumps, they’re the ones who cop it.”
When asked why she keeps going, the answer is simple.
“Because I love it," Wiliams adds
“It’s given me my identity, it makes me who I am at the moment. We talk about limits in life and we put limits on ourselves and everyone puts that age card on you but that’s just a number. Life is short and when you’re retired, you’re retired. At the moment, it’s trusting and believing in myself and my support system.”