Maddison Levi is “stoked and stunned” as Australia’s rugby sevens bolter for the Tokyo Olympics just nine weeks after playing AFLW for the Gold Coast Suns.
It is a staggering rise for the ponytail express, who is just 19 and less than two years out of Queensland’s Miami State High School.
Since the Olympics were postponed in 2020, Levi has transformed her case from “too young” to “too good to leave out” in 2021.
Her athletic pace and spring-heeled leaping to win valuable possession from re-starts are two X-factor qualities that coach John Manenti is now banking on for Tokyo.
“When John told me I’d been picked for the Olympics I just zoned out of everything else he said because I was in shock. I’m stoked,” the livewire Levi said.
She is a shining example of the inspirational glow from rugby’s golden girls of 2016 who stood atop the podium at the Rio Olympics.
“I was dancing jazz, ballet and hip-hop at the time. I got into footy at school the following year and we were lucky enough to make a trip to Ballymore,” Levi said.
“We watched the Aussie girls at training and Ellia Green was kind enough to show us her Olympic gold medal. Charlotte Caslick gave my sister some Aussie shorts.
“From idolising those players to now playing in the same team with them is hard to believe.”
Maddison and sister Teagan, 17, have set their top goals in rugby ever since.
That’s why Levi had a clever trapdoor clause put in the new two-year AFLW contract she signed with the Suns in June after her promising rookie season.
“I was lucky enough to get a clause in my contract that rugby takes priority so I’ll go inactive on the AFLW list to go for it at the Olympics and next year’s Seven’s World Cup and Commonwealth Games,” Levi said.
“I just never thought it would be so soon.”
Levi gave generous credit to the Suns for being so supportive of her dreams in both footy codes.
“Both sports have given me numerous opportunities and encouragement. The Suns want to see me in an Aussie jersey as much as anyone because they actually released me last December to play in the internal trials for sevens,” Levi said.
“My AFLW skills really transfer to rugby. On re-starts, I’m able to chase, steady and leap to contest possession.
“And I’m really drawn to the culture of rugby. I love the family feel.”
She broke three seconds for the 20m sprint to set a record at the AFLW Combine in 2020 so there is speed to go with her hops in a 1.78m frame.
Her dance background has created an eye-popping try-move all her own that will be an Olympics highlight if it appears in Tokyo.
Her signature is the gymnastics-style forward roll she produced instinctively when ankle tapped at the Aon University Sevens at Bond University in May. She kept momentum, regained her feet and finished off a 60m try ignited by her sister.
There was an encore in general play at the recent Oceania Sevens in Townsville where hot form won her spot in the 12-strong Olympic squad.
“If I’m falling, it’s sort of natural because it means I can keep my momentum going forward. One for the Olympics…hopefully,” she said with a laugh.
“I remember telling mum those years ago that she shouldn’t waste any more money on dancing. I’d found my passion in footy.
“The Olympics is going to be amazing experience.”
AUSTRALIA’S WOMEN OLYMPICS SQUAD
4.Dominique Du Toit