John Manenti is calling for further improvements from the Sevens side as they look to continue establishing their status as the team to beat on the HSBC World Series.
The Aussies fought their way to their first title in Hong Kong since 1988, defeating Fiji 20-17 in the Final.
The World Champions were forced to battle simply to make the knockouts, eliminating New Zealand in the group stages, with Manenti rating the event as one of the proudest days of his coaching career.
“That was as good as any,” he told Rugby.com.au “It was quite incredible just to get to day three because we lost to Samoa in a game where we should’ve won and then we had to beat the New Zealanders just to qualify
“To get there was a little sense of relief and then we came up against Ireland who knocked us off at the (Sevens) World Cup, we felt like we owed them one and we were up against it down on the scoreboard and scored a couple tries to come back and win the game. The French were then a big, fast team that we don’t match up well against on the back of their size but we were in the fight and then Moz (Maurice Longbottom) kicks the penalty goal to win it.
“To then be down against Fiji after a poor start, they're the last team you want to be chasing but somehow these boys have got some resilience, resolve. To have the belief in them that no situation is too big or tough and they kept firing shots, I was pretty proud that we got even within a bulls roar of them and with one last play we turned them over and scored the try. It was a pretty spectacle day.
“Hong Kong for me is the most prestigious of the tournaments and historically one we haven’t won since 1988. There is so much tradition around it and the reason why the Sevens World Series started was because of what Hong Kong could do around business, community and money. To win that is as special of a day you can have in football.”
Whilst Manenti was proud of the fight shown, it become a necessity at points due to the lack of discipline, finding themselves down players at multiple stages of their great escape.
“We have to be better in not putting ourselves in those situations because some of those games we were there because we allowed that to happen, realistically six against seven you give up at least a try, with five you (usually) give up two,” he admits, pointing to their semi-final against France where Josh Turner and Henry Hutchison ended up in the bin before half-time.
“We’ve got to be better at not opening the door and finishing opportunities which we needed to do on numerous occasions. That’s probably what makes me happiest, our attitude got us over the line but we’ve got so much to go in terms of execution so we’re nowhere near where we want to be but showing signs of improvement and fight.
“No team is going to be clinically outstanding every time but if the attitude is there and you don’t get beat in that area, sometimes the scoreboard falls in your favour and that’s what happening at the moment for the last period because we’ve put ourselves in the right positions.”
The win cements their standing as the team to beat heading into the next two legs in Cape Town and Dubai in December.
Whilst a World Series title usually does this by default, the nature of the 21-22 season left some doubters, with the likes of New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji missing events along the journey.
“The last three Series are London where we won, LA where we wrapped up bronze and the World Series and Hong Kong so we’re starting to show we can compete with all the teams there,” Manenti explained.
“I know there were some people who had question marks because New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa missed some games but they were all there for those three tournaments and we’re shown that we can beat them which we’ve done in those tournaments.
“We can compete with anyone, it’s now a matter of doing it and putting us in the position every time and that’s the challenge for us.
“We never had any real dream of a World Series when I took over, I just wanted them to be in the final four as possible and if we did that, it would be a sign of a good day and we did it more than anyone and won the title on the back of that.
“I think going forward that’s not enough. We need to push harder and I’ve challenged the boys to be top two and if you are in there, you’re a shot at the gold medal.”