With the Rugby Championship sucking most of our attention at the moment, it’s easy for us all to miss a very important movement. A movement that can underpin the strength of rugby’s future.
What is this important movement, you’re asking? Well, it’s 7’s rugby.
Whilst 7’s rugby often operates on the margins of the rugby operation, with its recent ascension to Olympic status, that’s about to change. And with rugby in Australia suffering, it can’t change quickly enough.
Rugby has been given a golden (get it?) opportunity, one that every single other contact team-sport in Australia cannot offer the marketplace.
First up, let’s get this out in the open: 7’s rugby discriminates. No unskilled fatties needed or wanted here. The 7’s player is an athlete first and a rugby player second. And let me tell you, that’s a good thing for the game’s entertainment quality.
With its focus on individual athletic capacity over the complicated and technical, on possession over field position, and with fewer stoppages, scrums, mauls and (most importantly) penalties, 7’s rugby equals top-class sport-entertainment. (cliché warning) It’s an end-to-end, side-to-side thrill ride.
And the other important aspect of 7′s rugby is its carnival, festival nature. If you’ve never been to a good 7’s event, approach it in this manner: dress up, and be prepared to party your pants off!
A good 7′s tournament is about creation of experiences other than that which appear on the field of play. A quality 7’s tournament is anything but sterile. Good 7’s are events rather than tournaments – think Hong Kong and Wellington, for example.
The overall 7’s package or product – the core game and the peripheral – offers rugby an opportunity to penetrate into parts of the community never before accessed with any great consistent success.
And 7’s rugby Olympic status provides it with an opportunity it has never, ever had to get our great game out into a truly global marketplace. It’s a very powerful tool to take the rugby code places that 15′s can’t and never will.
Rugby 7′s newly awarded Olympic Status is simply the codes single most important marketing vehicle.
If you like your contact team-sports and want to be an Olympian, then rugby is your opportunity. Repeat that sentence again in your mind. It’s very powerful, isn’t it.
Olympic status offers a new level and breadth of exposure for the code: it’s rugby’s equivalent of T20 cricket-but with Olympic status. As with T20 cricket, the uncomplicated nature of 7’s rugby and the focus on excitement over attrition allows it to not only be easily consumed by the casual sports fan, but one that can be easily played, too.
And a rugby 7′s event, like no other, will be a massive hit with the Olympics and the Olympic movement.
Ok, that’s all warm-n-fuzzy, but what about where the rubber hits the road, the rugby market here in Australia where we fight with soccer for a distant third in the sporting marketplace? This is where 7’s rugby can be a very, very effective acquisition and retention tool for the rugby code. And the key is infrastructure development.
Although 7’s rugby is primarily seen as developmental and evaluation tool for the 15-a-side version of the code, since 2011 more importance has been placed on development of domestic 7’s infrastructure.
Schools 7’s competitions and programs are being developed, and there is a set of events that form part of an unofficial Australian 7’s series (see below). Supporting this, a select group of senior players are contracted to the ARU with their primary focus on playing 7’s before 15’s.
Australian 7’s series
|Noosa International 7’s Festival||Noosa||6/7 October||Top-tier, semi-pro, Premier clubsMale female|
|(IRB) Gold Coast-Fever Pitch||Gold Coast||13/14 October||International male|
|Byron 7’s||Byron Bay||20/21 October||Community male female|
|Central Coast 7’s||27 October||Top-tier, semi-pro, Premier clubsMale female and schoolboys|
|Hottest 7’s||Darwin||Jan (2013)||Top-tier, semi-pro, Premier clubsMale female|
There are other components to our current 7’s infrastructure, like one-off community 7’s tournaments for example, but this is roughly where we stand in 2012.
Is this enough to guarantee Olympic medals and leverage the Olympic status to its full potential? Probably not. But it’s a start. I know the ARU, state and regional unions and even third tier clubs are focusing resources on the 7’s movement.
I like to term 7’s rugby as a movement as it encompasses more than just the game. People will more easily rally behind such an entertaining institution. And for a growing number of people it is increasingly becoming a way-of-life. A way of life that will see great movement over the coming years.
Rugby has been given a golden opportunity, one that every single other code in Australia would kill to have. We need to continue to invest in 7’s to ensure we have the right structures in place to grow it in such a way that complements and benefits the 15-a-side version and vice-versa.
7′s rugby might not be for all rugby people, and it doesn’t have to be. What’s needed is a long-term vision for the 7′s game and what role we think it can play in growing the rugby marketplace.
What’s your thoughts?
Director -Slattery Sports Events
Event Director-Noosa International 7’s Festival