Gerrard gives up national netball career to play rugby
AUSTRALIAN Diamonds stalwart Mo'onia Gerrard has put the chance of a gold medal at next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow aside to chase higher honours - a place in the Aussie women's rugby sevens team to compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The 32-year-old will play her last game for the NSW Swifts on Monday night, before putting all her efforts into testing herself in the sevens arena.
"I've always had a dream of going to the Olympics," she said.
"I love touch footy, and I'm a bit physical, so I owe it myself to see if I can achieve this dream..
Gerrard, whose boyfriend Dave Dennis is captain of the NSW Waratahs and in the Wallabies squad for the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in Brisbane on Saturday night, said she would meet with Australian Rugby Union officials within the next two weeks to map out a program.
That is likely to involve playing in the Sydney women's sevens competition over summer.
"I want to give it a fair crack. I'll probably decide whether I'll continue on by the end of next year ... maybe earlier," she said.
Gerrard, a veteran of 181 elite domestic netball games, and 68 Test caps for Australia, said her parents had tried to push her towards sports that were on the Olympics program when she was younger.
"I was into athletics and nippers as a kid. I loved hurdles, and sprint relays, but the team sports lured me," she said.
She made her debut in the Australian netball team against New Zealand in November 2004.
Injuries cost her a place in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, but she fought her way back and forged an almost-unbeatable defensive combination with Liz Ellis that saw the Diamonds beat the Silver Ferns to win the 2007 World Championship in Auckland.
Gerrard made her Commonwealth Games debut in Delhi in 2010 where Australia took silver, and would have been a certain starter in the team for Glasgow.
Her code switch means she will be unavailable for selection for the 2013 internationals, which features a five-Test Constellation Cup series against New Zealand, and a two-Test series against Malawi, in September and October.
Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander said it was disappointing her star defender would not be available, but added she was confident Gerrard would give herself every chance of making the Olympics.
"I have little doubt that she will strike fear into opposition eyes on the rugby field just like she did on the netball court with her physical presence, great hands, natural athleticism and sheer determination to succeed," Alexander said.
The Australian women's rugby sevens team will leave for Russia early next week to try to defend the world championship the team won when the event was held for the first time in 2009.
The tournament will be held in Moscow from June 29-30 - Australia has drawn China, Ireland and South Africa in its pool.