For the love of Sevens - Green and Gold Rugby
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For the love of Sevens

For the love of Sevens

It’s been a month or so since the Rio games has finished and the focus of the Australian Rugby community has now largely moved on to having an eye on The Rugby Championship. With that in mind, now is the time to examine and discuss where to for the 7s format in Australia and in particular the best way to use it as a vessel for growth while importantly, not allowing it to be a wasted opportunity.

While there has been some discussion on the Green and Gold Rugby forum in regards to how best to go about developing participation and a greater profile for the game, there’s been little hashed out on the basic structures that would need to be put in place to achieve one or the other. Preferably both.

In what could be largely thought of as a chicken or the egg argument we’ll err on the side participation and see where we end up.

Arggh - Kirra Burke steps in touch for ACT U17s

Arggh – Kirra Burke steps in touch for ACT U17s

In the last twelve months we have seen the ARU begin to roll out their Viva 7s program. In case you’re are unfamiliar with this program. Viva 7s is a non-contact version of the 7s game developed as a more social offering to the wider public.

From what I’ve seen, it appears less structured than traditional Touch Football when played in its formal setting. More like the scratch games we are more likely familiar with. Which I think is actually in its favour. I can see it occupying not only the corporate recreational side but being an excellent introductory vessel to young children. But it in itself is not the answer. Perhaps as part of a larger structure, yes. But not individually. Similar but different isn’t always an adequate substitution for the real thing.

An interesting template that could be used is the BJRU’s 7s program.  This program is an organised 7s competition format designed to run over a 6 week period along with finals running on both Friday evenings and Saturdays.

Within this structure each team plays two games a week be it either session. This is important as we need to ensure participants are provided with the most opportunity to actually participate in the game. For too long we have bolstered our playing numbers with the use of one off activities or the use of single event competitions. While those one off participants do help bolster the numbers they do little to benefit the game overall.

Providing organised competition allows for greater engagement over far longer timeframes and often leads to greater retention rates among not on existing playing bases but new participants.

Q7s

Which is a strength of the BJRU’s program. Over a 6 week period kids will be able to actively participate in at least 12 games of 7s Rugby. While this will only account for around three hours of total game play, it’s still much, much more than many will currently experience in our existing development activities.

Outside of its greater level of engagement the BJRU’s program has two significant other strengths working heavily in its favour being it’s both scalable and relatively inexpensive to initiate and run.

In terms of its scalability its strengths are twofold. First of all, while the current format is set to a 6 week competition, the program is structured in such a way that it can just as easily run for 8 or 10 weeks as it does for 6. This provides it with the necessary flexibility to respond to the needs and wants of its players. If the players want a longer season one year as opposed to the previous one, then with little relative effort the season can be altered to suit.

It’s second significant strength in regards to scalability is its overall simplicity in design, which makes it the ideal structure to be used universally across the country for not only young boy’s and girl as it intends but also for men and women alike. Clubs and regions across the country can potentially access a solid template in which to borrow from and work toward building the participation base within the own sphere. Looking at this from a NSW perspective, this would allow for a city like Sydney to be able to split itself into different geographic zones and run several localised competitions within itself. It would allow the more densely populated country regions such as the Hunter, Illawarra and Central Coast to easily do something similar while permitting the larger regional centres like Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo to name a few to overcome the tyranny of distance and potentially run their own independent city based competitions.

Viva 7s - a costly distraction or the future of the game?

Viva 7s – a costly distraction or the future of the game?

As for cost, much of the infrastructure is already in place to be able to successfully run these competitions. Existing Rugby clubs allow for several centres to be established within each zone/region if and when necessary to ensure access to games in a timely manner. For a game that needs to make the most of every dollar spent this program provides a great deal more opportunity than it does expense.

Ironically, perhaps the only real obstacle to participation may be cost. For existing players registration for the competition is only $45. Pretty good value. For new players that jumps to $80. That’s before external costs such as jerseys etc come onto play. If the $80 was all inclusive then that would be great value but it doesn’t appear to be. Overall, I think the ARU would save themselves both a lot of time and money by looking to back this program in attempts to roll it out nationally.

 

 

  • Working Class Rugger

    Another thought I had on this was that something along the lines of what I suggest in the article (oh, I wrote this by the way) could be very useful to the NRC franchises.

    I mentioned dividing Sydney into zones. These could be used by say the likes of the Rams to build brand awareness. Work with clubs within their catchment to establish 7s competitions using the BJRFU program or something very similar and link it with the Rams. Provide game day offers etc like $10 entry for registered participants and so on alongside the free entry for kids and HS students.

    • Rick James

      Rams had a 3 year plan program and pulled the pin after year one. Lack of vision and left the girls high and dry without clubs to play for

  • Ben Vaughan
  • Ben Vaughan

    For more info on how Empower Rugby is starting girls 15s and 7s programs across Australia, NZ and the US, mail empower@forty2.org

    • Working Class Rugger

      I’ll give it a look. The Womens (and girls) game provides a huge opportunity for Rugby particularly in the aftermath of Rio.

      • Working Class Rugger

        I’ve shot over an email.

  • Brendan Hume

    I agree – 7’s is a good introduction to the 15-a-side game, and in it’s own right offers some attractive footy. I haven’t seen the stats around the Olympic audience for the Women’s and Men’s games but I would expect they were very high. I still think this is a huge opportunity for the ARU to broadcast high level 7’s carnivals during a soft spot in the domestic sport market (Friday nights, late September to early November).

    A national competition along the lines of the FFA Cup could also work where a top ranked club from one competition was pitted against another in a carnival.

    • Working Class Rugger

      There was an article posted on The Roar proposing a BBL like 7s competition aimed at running for the month of November. Here’s the article. http://www.theroar.com.au/2016/08/15/the-wrap-introducing-rugby-sevens-smash/

      The FFA Cup like Sevens competition is also interesting. I’d actually like it to be structured so that athletes from all walks have an opportunity to participate.

      I’d go with something similar to the 6 week format featured in the article and run essentially two divisions. An open division designed to provide an opportunity for athletes who want to try their luck and the game and a social division featuring 7s for single sex teams and Viva 7s for mixed.

      These competitions are split into regions and compete. They run the competition and finals and at the end those in the open division are eligible for selection in the select side to participate in a State tournament against the Premoer Clubs that gain automatic seeds.

      Each state has runs their tournaments with the NT competing in the WA and SA/Tas (if they enter) in the Vic tournament.

      Sixteen teams progress to the National Championship. Four from each NSW/Qld, 2 from the ACT (number of clubs) and three each from Vic and WA.

  • Andrew

    There has been a Girls 7s ( contact not viva) Comp running in Sydney nearly every Saturday evening since May of this year ( except for school holidays). The grand final was held last Saturday at Concord Oval around the NRC game WSR v Perth. Around 400 girls participated with teams from U10s, 12s, 14s, 16s and 18s. The SJRU and NSWRU have been heavily promoting this and running it. a pathways program has been developed by SJRU and is currently being implemented. The zones are already made up of the district clubs etc and now the schools are getting the chance to participate as well.

    • Working Class Rugger

      Good to hear. Hopefully they can expand this. While the district clubs being used as regions is great it needs to be spread further afield. Out in the Macarthur region I haven’t seen nor anything like this in action.

      That’s probably the biggest issue with using district clubs. Particularly in the western half of the city. There are only 2/3 clubs for well over 1m people. Then you have around 400,000 down in Wollongong and roughly 800,000 or so in the Central Coast and Hunter regions.

      It’s also great to see that SJRU has a program but I can’t help feeling having one united program that can be implemented nationally to ensure everyone is singing from the one song sheet would be preferable.

    • Rick James

      What is the pathway program? Are you talking about the blue belles program?

  • Spank

    I was at Baltimore, Brisbane last weekend and girls of all ages were playing 7’s on both the #2 and # 3 fields. I gathered the girls teams had been playing all weekend. Really great to see them.

    • RugbyReg

      yeah, that was a 7s muster day. I think Under 14 and 16??? Apparently they were happening all across the state on the same day

  • RedAnt

    Nice one, Greg, all makes a lot of sense (which is probably the first problem!). Would be great to see some more focus on this from the national and state unions as I do really think the benefits for the game in general would be incredibly far-reaching.

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