A lower North Island community sevens circuit in the summer would prove popular.
One way of bridging the increasing divide between professional and community rugby could be for the Hurricanes to throw their support behind it.
It could start with a tournament in Wellington in late November – the already established Weepu 7s as an example – and and then include five tournaments elsewhere in the Hurricanes region throughout December, January and February.
Each of the six lower North Island Hurricanes regions would host one tournament each as part of this series, with tournaments in Wairarapa-Bush, Wanganui, Horowhenua-Kapiti, Hawke’s Bay and Manawatu to follow the first one in Wellington.
For geographical reasons, Poverty Bay and East Coast wouldn’t host one of these tournaments, but teams from these provinces would be given financial assistance for travel and encouragement (by the Hurricanes, see below) to compete in some of these other tournaments.
Starting with the Weepu 7s, some of these tournaments are already in existence, so few ‘new’ tournaments would need to be started everywhere. For example, over the past three weekends there has been the second annual Kimbolton 7s in the Manawatu, the 36th annual Hawke’s Bay sevens in Waipukurau and the 32nd annual Shannon 7s on Saturday. There are other tournaments in abeyance, such as the Greytown 7s. It is acknowledged that all these tournaments already have their own identities and there are existing financial [fundraising for the host club] considerations in place already so it would be business as usual for these tournaments.
The Hurricanes region sevens circuit of tournaments could be run on a points system like the World Series and a series winner crowned at the end of the summer. Sponsorship could be found (with the help of the Hurricanes, see below), with overall prize money or a trip to a big tournament overseas later in the year a prize for the winner.
The Hurricanes should support and endorse this sevens circuit and each individual tournament in various ways such as providing marketing and sponsorship opportunities just by association, providing ‘guest’ players and coaches for teams, providing an on-site presence at these tournaments in the form of a merchandise caravan and giveaways and Hurricanes players and staff being present as ambassadors.
One key to making this work would be getting a steady supply of teams to each tournament.
As well as the local club sides, something official such as this would hopefully encourage more invitational teams travelling to compete. There are already several such teams such as the ‘Fijian Flyers’ and the ‘Hawke’s Bay Fijians’ who recently won the Hawke’s Bay 7s. Others could form squads for the summer as well and there is easily the pool of players available for two or three Wellington-based teams such as ones representing the Wellington Samoa Rugby Union, the Centurions RFC (Wellington) and the NZ Marist Federation (fielding a lower North Island team). Plus others from up the line such as Heartland union invitational teams.
The Hurricanes or sponsorship won through Hurricanes support or through their association could also help in financially assisting teams from Poverty Bay and East Coast from attending some of these tournaments. Similarly, other club and invitational teams could be funded for travel and accommodation for ‘one’ tournament if they pledged to attend at least one more on their own steam on the circuit that is away from home. For example, Hawke’s Bay teams could go to Wellington if they also committed to going across to Wanganui and their travelling costs would be covered for one of these trips.
In summary, it wouldn’t take much for a lower North Island community sevens circuit – supported by the Hurricanes – to get off the ground and it could be a winner!