Gold Coast Joins IRB 7s Party
Today, Australia’s party capital, the Gold Coast, is this season’s starting point for the International Rugby Board’s 7-a-side rugby jaunt. A nine venue carnival from Australia, through Dubai (2-3 Dec)& South Africa (9-10 Dec), then back to the Pacific in the New Year where Wellington, New Zealand, plays host 3rd & 4th of February. The caravan then heads east across the Pacific to Las Vegas, USA (10-12 Feb), before the famous Hong Kong 7s (23-25 March), where this party began 35 years ago. And still the carnival continues in Tokyo, Japan (31 Mar-1st April) before heading west for the final two tourneys in Scotland (5th-6th) and England 12th & 13th of May, 2012.
Sevens rugby has been around since 1883 with a Scottish tournament in Melrose; which, incidentally, is still held every year in April. While this hybrid game is never going to rival traditional 15-a-side rugby, it is a vehicle to expand rugby’s reach, particular since its inclusion in the Commonwealth Games (1998) and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, 2016. A fast paced exiting style of rugby that has attracted non-traditional rugby countries, such as Kenya, to explode onto the scene and since the Hong Kong 7s evolution in 1976 with corporate sponsorship this brand has excelled.
That brings us to the Gold Coast 2011 for the start of another junket, and what a place to begin: sun, sand and the Pacific Ocean combined with major sporting events such as the Ladies Masters Golf, the Indy and the Commonwealth Games in 2018. However, international rugby on the Gold Coast is a late bloomer, with only the first match played in August when an Australian Barbarians side played Canada. The Hyperion Gold Coast 7s that started two years ago as an invitational club event that has outgrown Albert Park moving over to Metricon Stadium at Carrara. That event was run again last weekend as the start of a “Festival of Rugby” in Queensland with over 11,000 school kids competing across the state in various competitions of 7s rugby and concluding with the HSBC IRB 7s.
Australian Thunderbolt’s coach, Michael O’Conner, has lamented today in The Australian newspaper on the lack of government funding for 7s players. Since its inclusion in the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics in 2016 more support is required.
“It is relevant. Sevens will become its own entity prior to the Olympics,” O’Conner said yesterday.
“That involves getting more funding because at the moment we just can’t compete with 15s just financially for players. That may well change because it’s a growing sport worldwide.”
South Africa leads professionalism is 7s which is putting the pressure on other unions to “catch-up”. As the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro approaches the USA is devoting billions of dollars to rugby 7s and Canada announced $1.6 million through its ‘Own the Podium’ program, this hybrid game needs our support. So if you are around southeast Queensland over the next two days get down to the Gold Coast event, which runs until 9.30pm tonight and the final at 8.30pm tomorrow.