AUSTRALIAN coach Andy Friend will act fast to secure rookie Maurice Longbottom to a long-term rugby sevens contract after the code-hopper starred on debut in Germany.
The South Sydney rugby league junior helped Australia beat Olympic champions Fiji twice during the weekend’s Munich Oktoberfest 7s, on the way to the team’s first silverware since 2012.
Longbottom was electrifying with ball in hand in his first tournament with the side, setting up a try and scoring another in the first-half of the final to lay the platform for victory.
“I saw him play last year, he looked sharp and I told him before we lock anything in we need to see it on the big stage,” Friend said. “And we certainly did; he was sensational.
“We’re looking for him to commit long-term now, right through to Tokyo (Olympics in 2020).” In 2010 Longbottom was selected in a NSW Indigenous Under-16 rugby league squad alongside current Melbourne Storm flyer Josh Addo-Carr.
Friend hopes his sevens arrival will show other indigenous talents there is a future for them in the sport.
“Indigenous players are really, really suited to sevens because it’s all about instinct and speed and they have it in bucketloads,” the coach said. “There are currently three indigenous guys in the squad, but hopefully the floodgates open soon.”
Maurice Longbottom dives over to score a try for Australia during the match between Australia and Fiji on Day 1 of the Rugby Oktoberfest 7s.
Friend said Australia’s 40-7 thrashing of Fiji in the final would have long- lasting benefits for the squad.
“It gives them the belief that our system works and they came away thinking ‘I can see why we do what we do’,” the coach said.
“The Fijians had a bit of banter before the game but we gave it back then dominated them physically on the field.” The win was even more impressive given captain James Stannard (rib) and Tom Lucas (concussion) were both missing from the side.
Players will have at least three more preseason hit-outs before Dubai’s World Series opener on December 1.