Rugby sevens spotlight on: Ellia Green
Ellia Green is a former track-and-field athlete who took up sevens in 2012. The Australian speedster is expected to be one of the stars of the Olympic Games in Rio and here she chats to RW about nicknames, braids and rapping…
I first picked a rugby ball up at the end of 2012. I was supporting my cousin, who was going to a Talent ID camp in Melbourne. I had no intention of playing but I got involved and got selected. Sadly, my cousin didn’t.
It took time to learn rugby’s etiquette. When I first scored a try and jumped around and threw the ball up in the air, Shontelle Stowers was like, “no, no, Ellia.” I also threw a ball at New Zealand’s Kayla Mcalister once because I didn’t like her high tackle. I’ve learnt now.
My coach Tim Walsh is amazing. I go to him for advice and he has great feedback. We were barely winning two years ago and now we’ve won the World Series!
I’m extremely competitive in the gym. I love it. I did a lot of Olympic lifting in athletics, so that helps. Tim is very competitive too. We have bicep curl competitions!
I look up to flyers like Seabelo Senatla and Carlin Isles. Their take-off speed and how they utilise space is incredible. I study their running styles in our sessions.
Perry Baker is really funny. I consider him a friend. He has a lot of fun and is the energy of that USA team.
I have lots of nicknames. It started as ‘Sonic Boom’, as I had hair like the computer character. Then it was ‘Bula’, as I was born in Fiji. Now it’s settled on ‘The G-Train’.
I like to rap. I spend my spare time making up rhymes. I’m always thinking up lyrics and can make up a song in five minutes. I’ll even rap messages at team meetings.
I’m a Sydney girl. I was so proud that the Sydney Sevens earlier this year sold out. Our families were there. It was just an amazing turnout and showed that support for sevens is huge in Australia.
“Five years ago I’d never have believed I’d be in this position”
We chant ‘ROAR’ when we go out on the pitch. It’s the Katy Perry song. We made up the acronym, Respect, Olympic dream, Accountability and Rough B*****s. We need to be aggressive on the pitch! We all buy into it.
There are so many great characters in the team. We call Chloe Dalton ‘Wikipedia’. She knows everything – she’s so smart. Shannon Parry is like the mum of the group. She looks after us. I’m the joker. If i was quiet, they’d probably think I was sick.
A try I scored against Canada in 2014 went viral. I ran in from 75 metres and it had hundreds of thousands of views online after a few hours. I did a stop-and-go on Magali Harvey and burned down the touchline. I was definitely surprised by the reaction. People have labelled us favourites for
gold in Rio. Yes, we won the World Series but that’s in the past. We have lots of things to improve on. Our biggest rivals for gold are probably New Zealand. There’s always a heated trans-Tasman rivalry. The Fijiana are also capable of doing it, they’re so physical and unpredictable. Canada, too, with Magali Harvey and Jen Kish, will be hard to beat.
As a former track-and-field athlete, it saddens me that athletics is tainted by drugs scandals. You are only cheating yourself. It’s a shame so much negative light is on the sport when the majority do it clean.
The Olympics will be a springboard for women’s sevens. It’s a step up for women’s sport, rugby and sevens in general. I’m getting loads of supportive messages. We’re being seen as role models, which is incredible. My advice would be to give sevens a go. Five years ago I’d never have believed I’d be in this position. Now I love the sport, the contact especially.
At first I struggled playing a team sport. I’d been used to concentrating on myself. Communication is the key; you’ve got to keep talking on the pitch. When I was on the track it was lonely, just me and the coach.
My Fijian roots mean a huge deal to me. Fiji fans follow the sevens circuit around the world and are always rooting for me. It’s very touching. It reminds me of the young Fijian girl I was, barefoot on the beach.
I deliberately keep my braids. Some people on social media have said, ‘Chop that mop off’, but it makes me happy to feel them blowing in the wind when I’m running. They ain’t going nowhere!
My mum, Yolanta, is recovering from cancer. I lost my dad, a journalist, when I was young so now it’s just me, Mum and my brother. She is my strength, my courage, my guidance. When I was young, she wrote on my door, ‘You will be the greatest athlete in the world’. She said you have to believe in yourself.