Bond University rugby 7s Olympic sensation Maddi Levi burns her opposition at the Tokyo Olympics. PICTURE: Getty Images
By Pat McLeod
Bond University rugby 7s Olympian Maddi Levi is loving ‘lockdown’.
Unlike most who have experienced compulsory quarantine during the Covid pandemic, the 19-year-old Gold Coast sports phenomenon is thoroughly enjoying being forced to do nothing.
“It is actually pretty relaxing,” Levi said from the Howard Springs accommodation facility near Darwin. “Going from a 24/7 constant life to doing nothing, I am enjoying it a lot.”
Her 14-day hiatus ends early next week, however these two weeks will provide the rugby and AFL starlet more than just ‘down time’. It has been, and will be, a time when she can not only reflect on a mind-boggling, 12-month sporting trajectory, but also plan on where that trajectory is next headed.
Not unlike many of her withering edge sprints to the tryline, what Levi has achieved in a matter of months is head-spinning.
Just last year she was a kid out of Miami High School with a lot of potential. Yes, by then she had already kicked significant goals on both the AFL and rugby 7s front. But there is a yawning gap between junior promise and delivering at a senior level.
However, right now, in Howard Springs isolation, Levi knows she has brilliantly bridged that gap.
This year she leapt to prominence in the AFLW with eight eye-catching games for the Gold Coast Suns, having been drafted from her Bond Uni club team.
She somehow juggled that with her passion for rugby 7s, combining with younger sister Teagan, to be two of the standout performers for Bond Bull Sharks in the Aon Women’s Uni 7s Series.
Bond won that series in May and just two months later Levi was elevated from an uncontracted player on the national scene to a member of the Australian 7s team at the Tokyo Olympics.
The dream of successfully defending the gold medal won in 2016 at the Rio Olympics did not happen for the fifth-placed Aussies in Tokyo, but there is little wonder why Levi is savouring the chance to absorb what has happened in the past eight months.
“The Olympics was such an unreal experience. To be able to play against those countries, as a debutant at the Olympics … such a surreal feeling,” she said.
“Even though it was not the result we wanted it was still amazing. Just stepping on the field was so exciting for me.”
Levi certainly experienced the highs and lows of sport in Tokyo. The Australian team won both their games on Day 1, against Japan and China. They then lost both their Day 2 games, against USA (14-12) and Fiji (14-12), which put them out of medal contention. The Aussies won both Day 3 games, against ROC and USA.
Levi played in all games except for the final clash with USA.
She opened her Olympic campaign with two tries against Japan, which was pivotal for her.
“Coming into every tournament there is something that plays on my mind. I do get very nervous,” she explained. “Playing that first game and to be able to play the brand of footy that I play. To be able to execute my role. To be able to run fast and score down the edge.
“That was all a buzz. It put me in a good position for the rest of the tournament and allowed my confidence to go through the roof and that I was there for a reason.”
Levi said her skill set had certainly been super-charged by the Tokyo experience.
“It was amazing and I was privileged to be able to train with a truly incredible squad,” she said. “Coming in, I was in awe at how much they trained and how intense their training is.”
Levi said although the squad was disheartened to come away from Tokyo without a medal the focus was now on the future.
“As much as we would have liked to have dwelt on those (Day 2) losses and as heartbreaking as it was, we still had a job to get done on Day 3,” she said. “We had to play for pride, dignity and for our country. We know where we belong, but that is not how it always works out.
“You can’t turn the clock back. You can only say, ‘Where to now?’
“So, our Day 3 was a new challenge: ‘How do we portray ourselves from now on?’ We are coming into a year that has a Commonwealth Games and a World Cup. So, the preparation for that started on Day 3.”
Those two major events will be part of Levi’s decision process at Howard Springs as she decides on her future – Rugby 7s or AFL … or a combination.
She hasn’t decided, but the clock is ticking.
On one side is the lure of a Commonwealth Games medal in Birmingham and all the global excitement that 7s rugby attracts.
But that would also most likely involve a move away from her family to be based in Sydney.
Her other option is to stay on the Gold Coast and continue her AFLW career with the Suns, which is also an extremely attractive choice.
“I love the athletic aspect of AFL and to be able to stay at home and play in front of home crowds and honestly, with the uncertainty of Covid, that is definitely a pro,” she said.
“I would love to be able to do that and still play rugby, but we will have to see where it goes.”
The one thing Levi is looking forward to is coming back and being involved, as a spectator, in the Bond Premier Women’s run in the finals of the 15-a-side version, which begins on August 28.
“The experience through Bond’s 7s program has been unreal and really drove my love for the sport,” she said. “They have a unique culture, a real family environment.
“When the 7s season was over I would turn up to 15s training just to be involved in that culture. Being away from them, I miss it.”