The Grackles: Queens of 7s
The Grackles: Queens of 7s
Sound like a holiday tale? Not quite, but 2014 has been a magical one for the Oregon girls team. The Grackles – a combination side composed of Grant, Reynolds and Clackamas 15s players – won the state summer 7s championship in its debut year, and then followed with a High School Girls Fall 7s championship this November.
Rugby Oregon runs a well organized, well established 15s competition, and its 7s involvement is quickly catching up. For the girls, 2014 marked the state’s third summer 7s series and second fall 7s league.
“Sevens is extremely popular,” said Grackles assistant coach Val Burns, who helps coach Grant during the 15s season. “There is an uptick with skill at the 7s high school level.”
But there are still gaps in participation. Entering this past summer 7s season, Grant, Reynolds and Clackamas could not field 7s teams of their own, so Reynolds head coach Dee Archie and Grant head coach Eric Zimmerman (along with Burns) partnered to lead the Grackles and give their players more opportunities to play.
Despite the growing pains of uniting a combination team, the Grackles took to the game of 7s – so much so that its two teams won the Cup and Plate at the summer 7s championship. The team rode that momentum into the fall and built a 10-0 record heading into playoffs.
“We did dominate the season but had some good games against the Highlanders and Ducks [Lady Barbarians],” Burns said.
Out in front were standouts Sui A'Au and Mckenna Davis. Both are well known entities, both in Oregon, where they've made numerous appearances for the Red Hawks, and the region, having both attended USA U20 developmental camps.
“A'au's strength is her speed, agility and mental toughness," Burns said. "Davis' strength is her smarts with strategy. Both could improve just by getting more reps.”
During the final four weekend, the Grackles eliminated the Highlanders 31-0 in the semifinals, while the Lady Barbarians (which had two sides – Ducks and Beavers) advanced to the title bout after breaking a 22-22 tie against the Valley Panthers (which also had two sides in the competition).
The Lady Barbros gave the Grackles one of their best games of the season but ultimately fell 37-24 in the Cup match.
“This was definitely a team victory,” Burns said. “Our player of the match was actually our [Grant] hooker/scrumhalf in 15s: Cait Haley. She did a great job in the final.”
Two state finals, two state titles for the Grackles, but 7s play isn't over just yet. Come February, the Oregon All Stars will be booting up at the Las Vegas Invitational to face teams from Canada as well as the USA Rugby High School All Americans and elite squads like Atlantis. Grackles alumni A'Au and Davis will be competing in Vegas, inspiring up-and-comers like A'Au's younger sisters, Tiara and Tiana (who are causing quite a stir in their own right), and furthering the 7s movement in Oregon.
But 7s is making its mark in Oregon – A’Au’s youngers sisters, Tiara and Tiana, are causing quite the stir early in their rugby careers – and those success stories will only increase in number as Rugby Oregon continues to make those playing opportunities available.