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Quick as a flash, Fijian goes from obscurity to spot in Australian squad

Sydney Morning Herald
Sunday, March 31, 2013

Australian sevens winger Ellia Green went from rugby hopeful to match winner in just two months.

Green, 20, scored Australia's winning try against New Zealand in extra time in the second leg of the Sevens World Series last month, pushing the team to second in the series rankings with two rounds to go and capping her own meteoric rise from bit-of-everything athlete to legitimate sevens talent.

She had been in the program less than two months after playing her way through the national trials and a selection camp to join a handful of rookies recruited to beef up Australia's playing stocks going into the sevens World Cup in Moscow in June.

It was a steep learning curve for Green, who has a background as a sprinter and representative basketball player, but to the delight of her coaches she quite literally took the ball and ran with it.

"Ellia has genuine speed from her track background, which is a real asset for any sevens player. She has the ability to score tries from anywhere on the field as well as chase opposition players down from behind if they break our defensive line," women's head coach Chris Lane said.

For Green and others like her, such as fellow rookies Natasha Haines, Brooke Anderson and Tiana Penitani, the road to rugby has not been straight. Born in Fiji but raised in Gosford and now based in Melbourne, Green played some touch football but concentrated on other sports from an early age.

A relative told her about the ARU's nationwide sevens trials last year and said it would be similar to the game she played with her cousins as a child on holidays in Fiji.

"I didn't know what to expect at all, there were so many athletes from different backgrounds," Green said. "My cousin just said, 'play like we're in Fiji, no mucking around, and run fast. So I showed them I had speed and athletic ability as well as some general ball skills."

Lane and the other selectors liked what they saw and, come the second leg of the series, in Dubai, were prepared to use Green off the bench.

"The fact she made two try-saving tackles in the same game was probably more satisfying than actually scoring the try because tackling and contact in general is something foreign to her, as opposed to running fast, which she has done all her life," Lane said.

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