In mid-February Hayden Sargeant was slogging through pre-season with the Bull Sharks, squeezing in surfs around his burgeoning career in construction and watching with envy as the Aussie 7s embarked on the qualification process for the Paris Olympics.
Fast forward to Monday and he was in a gold jersey at Twickenham as the current 7s became the first Australian men’s side to gain automatic Olympic selection after an action-packed afternoon at the home of rugby.
The Aussies needed to stay ahead of Samoa on the points table to join New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji and France as automatic qualifiers – and it looked like they had blown it.
They were relegated to the seventh-place playoff after conceding a try after the hooter in a devastating 22-19 loss to France, which left them relying on other result to go their way.
When Samoa lost 10-7 to Argentina in the semi-finals the Aussies were able to claim the last automatic place for Paris by thumping the British 34-5 to finish just one point ahead of Samoa who must now go through the Oceania regional qualifiers.
“That day was a wave of emotions to say the least,” Sargeant said.
“We didn’t make it easy for ourselves that’s for sure, so we are extremely grateful and excited.
“To be the first Australian men’s 7s team to gain automatic qualification is quite special and I think it says a lot about this squad.”
The 25-year-old is a noted speedster but even he has had trouble keeping pace with his career trajectory since earning a last-minute call-up as an injury replacement for the LA tournament in late February.
“I’m starting to find my groove within the team, 7s is a sport where you really have to be playing together to gain trust and an understanding of how everyone plays,” he said.
“It’s always hard being the new player to a team, especially when you come in a week before an international tournament.
“However, I have played with a few of the boys before which is nice when you know how someone plays and they trust your calls on the field.
“And the coaches have also been amazing and instilling a lot of trust and confidence in me which unreal.”
The Bond University Bachelor of Construction Management and Quantity Surveying graduate has now been offered a full-time contract with Rugby Australia.
He’s shelved his career with Hutchinson Builders and along with partner Felicity Grice and trusty German shorthair pointer Moose, has made the move to Sydney.
“I’m excited. I’ve lived in Melbourne before and enjoyed that part of my life so I’m looking forward to another change,” he said.
“The boys have been great with giving me a hand on where to live and showing me around when I’ve been down for training.
“I’ll be moving down with my partner and our dog so I think it will be a great part of our journey.
“Plus, there’s still surf in Sydney, unlike Melbourne, so I’m stoked.”