So when the Rugby 7s circus arrived in Sydney and pitched its tent at the Sydney Football Stadium then I was naturally reluctant to roll up even if I knew the clowns might amuse me in an awkward scary sort of way. But roll up I did. Here's 10 things I discovered...
1) Forwards are to Rugby 7s as bowlers are to Twenty20 cricket. They're redundant
|Not 7s. Not even close.|
2) ... real Rugby does break out occassionally
Alas this tends to be only when the better teams play each other. There is a massive standard discrepancy between the top and bottom teams. All the bottom teams choose fit fast guys and look to score as many tries as possible. As a result they hold off in defence and are reactive, This just creates space and results in more tries being conceded. The better teams are structured in defence and attack, recognise the importance of dominating the midfield and are dynamic in their tackling, reducing the space of the attacking team. It's why New Zealand were all over Fiji for example. Australia even employed positional kicking to slow the ball game and use lineouts as an attacking ploy to defeat South Africa in the most technically interesting match of the tournament.
3) Without Fiji there is no Rugby 7s
|Any Rugby 7s tournament anywhere|
|Tom Jones - Rugby 7s all time favourite|
The incessant fucking loud MUSIC. OK, fair enough, between matches and even at half time we can sing and dance and generally act like idiots. But why does there need to be loud music at every break in play. Every scrum set, every lineout, every pause in the 'action'. For a sport that sells itself on its social off-field elements there's a lot you can't do when you can't here the bloke next to you. Not only that but the music was shit. Probably 95% of the music was over 20 years old. How is Rugby going to sell itself to the next generation when all the music is geared to my demographic (45+)? Classic hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Anyone under 20 would have concluded that Rugby is doing a timewarp again. Actually that's one song they didn't play.
5) The consolation crockery
|Rugby 7 trophies on display|
6) Mid-strength beer
Speaking of turn offs, the media spin might have you believe that the crowd was going mental but the reality was that it was vastly and mostly boringly well behaved and probably quiet though who would know what with all that shit old music. Blame that on the lack of full-strength beverages. And at almost $8 for a plastic cup (maximum 2 per person) of beer flavoured water I certainly didn't get drunk and foolish but I did get well hydrated and made lots of trips to the toilet.
7) What fancy dress?
|Probably a 7s fan. Or a player.|
Would certainly be Speedy enough!
8) Is 7s a 'thing'?
Probably not. Sydney loves a bandwagon (Waratahs, Wanderers, Swans, Thunder - basically anyone who's winning) and a bit of hype. But credit where credit's due, the ARU nailed this tournament's media and marketing. But much like the A-league or the Swans or the Big Bash (just wait, you'll see) it only takes a couple of years for the gloss to wear off and the calls to start up for free to air coverage, cheaper tickets, marquee players, rule changes etc etc. Perhaps the trick is to move the tournament around and maybe that's what happening - Adelaide then Gold Coast then Sydney. Just wait Launceston - your turn will come.
9) Rugby's saviour?
Also probably not. The reality is that we found out how big Sydney's Rugby community is when 61,00 watched the Tahs win Super Rugby. 70,000 came to the 7s over two days and the reality is that the vast majority were already die-hard Rugby fans who had bought into the Hong Kong experience at home. It's very unlikely there'll be any impact on Waratah, Wallaby, Club Rugby or NRC crowds. If anything they'll be less after everyone wasted all their money on all that crap watery beer. If Rugby wants to increase in popularity it needs to cater more to the grass roots at suburban level to lock those kiddies in and worry less about the top end showpieces.
10) ?#$*^%! Kiwis