“I believe in myself, and that I’m good enough to be with these girls and go even higher”
This quote from Madison Ashby could've been from any time. It was from when she was 13.
Ashby has always been earmarked for higher honours, with her parents pushing for inclusion in the Sevens side as early as the 2016 Rio Olympics, when she would've been just 15.
It would've been two years younger than Jesse Southwell when she made her debut last May.
Now at 21, Ashby has become a central leader of the all-conquering team, marking her mark with a Player of the Match performance in December's Dubai title as she looks to inspire girls to follow in her footsteps.
“I think for me now looking back at my 13-year-old self, it’s like ‘wow, dreams do come true’," she told Rugby.com.au
“My dream is now my reality and I live it every day, it’s a blessing.
“I think any young girl how big they dream, they do come true as long as you work hard, sacrifice and make the right choices, you can end up where you want to be.”
The Sydney Sevens provides the perfect platform to achieve this, returning after two years due to COVID.
Ashby is one of few in the squad to have experienced a home event, eliminated in the semi-finals in 2020 after a thumping 34-0 defeat to Canada.
Since then, the squad has gone under a significant facelift and return home with a plethora of silverware.
Whilst this creates its own level of pressure, Ashby and the Sevens program welcomed it, knowing what a win will do.
“For me, focusing on our bubble is key because knowing we’re playing in front of friends and family, it can be overwhelming but we’re staying focused," she explained
“Sydney Sevens is one of the best tournaments, the crowd is unreal. The way they get around the home team and even the Fijians and how they get around that team, it’s an amazing experience and I can’t wait for everyone to come down and see it for themselves.
“We’ve got good at perfecting the focus on our bubble. The team comes first for everything, not really letting any outside noises come in. We’re there to do a job and win but for a lot of us who are young, we have people like Sharni Williams and Charlotte Caslick who keep inspiring and getting better.
“For us, we’re hoping all the young girls coming out there even from the rural areas who have said they are coming, we want to play for them more than anything and show them Women’s Rugby is a thing and it’s staying, not going anywhere.
“We want to show if they keep challenging themselves and keep going forward with Rugby where you can end up one day.”
Before they get to Sydney, there's a quick trip over the Tasman on their schedule as they head to Hamilton for the New Zealand Sevens.
It will be the perfect chance for Tim Walsh's side to get revenge on the Kiwis after their crushing defeat to Cape Town.
Having cruised through the tournament, a first-half blitz from the Black Ferns Sevens put the Final out of reach as they secured the 31-14 victory.
“I think after the game we all looked at each other and went ‘we can’t wait to get back on the 29th (of December),” Ashby reflected.
“We can’t let that game reflect on who we are as players and that’s not who we are and what our team is. We knew we all played badly and that was not our best. We didn’t lose playing our best, we lost playing s***
“I think us losing was a big reality check. We want to be the best but we want to be the best by a long shot. We don’t want any team to come close to taking the title from us.
“For us, it’s a very humbling experience but we have that drive to be better.”