• Vani Pelite on the run to the try line at the CC7s 2015 (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Equal prize money will now go to the winners of both, the Men's and Women's competitions
8 Jul 2016 - 11:55 AM  UPDATED 8 Jul 2016 - 11:55 AM

Just a couple of hours up the NSW coast from Sydney is the Central Coast: home to beautiful beaches, national parks and a thriving sporting culture.

With plaudits ringing out around the recent Wallaroos’ sponsorship announcement in support of the code on a national scale, it was perhaps easy to miss another significant milestone of support for the women’s game – but this one at more of a local level.

The UON Central Coast Sevens organisers have announced that the tournament will offer equal prize money to the winners of both the Men’s and Women’s competitions at the 2016 tournament – the first to do so on this scale.

While for most, parity pay would seem to be a no-brainer, it is still quite rare in the world of combined sporting competitions.

“We’ve been able to achieve parity in our prize money - $20k for the Cup champions this year – which we have been working towards for a number of years. We’ve built from the ground up and put all our structures in place, so we’re very happy,” said tournament director, Craig Morgan.

While for most, parity pay would seem to be a no-brainer, it is still quite rare in the world of combined sporting competitions.

It is quite a coup for organisers and quite insightful for the Women’s competition sponsor, Kinesio Australia to recognise the value of investing in women’s sport: a point also recently underlined by the President of Australian Women’s Rugby, Buildcorp’s Josephine Sukkar when announcing the sponsorship of the Wallaroos and the National XVs Championship.

Craig Morgan made the announcement at the official launch of this year’s tournament, which had as an added highlight the premiere of the feature documentary ‘For the Love of the Game’ – filmed around the 2015 tournament and due to air on Fox Sports on 16 July.

While not with the same media fanfare, the CC7s announcement was equally significant to the one made by the ARU in relation to the growing awareness of the importance and relevance of women’s rugby and the much needed support it is due – especially at a local level.

This tournament is one of many domestic Rugby Sevens tournaments across the sporting year run in both urban and regional cities, but CC7s has built a reputation over the past seven years of being Australia’s pre-eminent sevens tournament outside of the World Series and much favoured on the international Sevens calendar.

Joining the Australian domestic teams in the race for places in the fixture are assorted international, often representative teams looking for game time, appreciating the quality of the event and its scheduling – perfectly timed in October for the lead up to the start of the World Series each December – but also enjoying the local community atmosphere which surrounds the tournament. It operates completely on a volunteer support network from among Morgan’s family and friends and from within the community.

While the continuing overseas interest is pleasing, Morgan is keenly aware that there also needs to be a strong domestic representation of teams and so each year’s fixture becomes a bit of a balancing act.

“We have selection criteria. We have some partner tournaments – Coral Coast Sevens in Fiji and Samoa Independent Sevens where there is automatic qualification. We then base our teams on expressions of interest. So in those expressions of interest we look at the results of the tournaments that they’ve competed in. Firstly, they’ve got to be active in Sevens – if they’re just putting together a team and wanting to use us as a one-off run then that’s not going to happen,” he said.

Morgan is keen to support the growth and development of the local Australian Sevens code but strongly believes the competition brought by visiting international domestic, representative and development teams is all to the benefit of the local ones.

"... Some say, well, we’re coming up against the Australians (national team) or the Kiwis whereas I look at that and say what better opportunity do you have to measure yourselves against the top sides."

“One of the things I do love about our tournament is that we do offer an opportunity for domestic sides to play internationals. People have different perceptions of that – some say well we’re coming up against the Australians (national team) or the Kiwis whereas I look at that and say what better opportunity do you have to measure yourselves against the top sides. To be the best, you have to play the best. I think at the end of the day, that’s what our tournament is about,” said Morgan.

“For a club [Sydney University] side to defeat an international representative side and then progress through to play their own national development team in the final - I would walk away very proud if I was in that side.”

“I remember several years ago, Sydney University in the Women’s competition came up against the Samoan national side; they progressed through to the final by beating the Samoans and then had to face the Aussie Pearls (the national development team). So for a club side to defeat an international representative side and then progress through to play their own national development team in the final - I would walk away very proud if I was in that side,” he said.

With the equal prize money for the women’s competition and the pending release of the documentary, Morgan believes the growth of a key locally based tournament like Central Coast

Sevens is a strong catalyst to encourage increased participation at a local level – particularly for girls and young women.

"The prize money is not really the focus now. It’s about maintaining the standards and using the tournament to drive the game."

“I think we’re at a point where we’re really happy with the prize money levels; we’re not looking to go beyond that. The prize money is not really the focus now. It’s about maintaining the standards and using the tournament to drive the game. We want it to be a benchmark for Sevens in Australia. We want to see more Australian teams involved in Sevens and we want to see greater emphasis on the game at premier level. That way, hopefully they’re building a stronger base for the national teams because there’s another Olympics in 2020,” said Morgan with a smile.

Of course, not only is there another Olympics four years down the track, but the 2018 Commonwealth Games is on the horizon and it’s in Australia. While Men’s Rugby Sevens has been in the competition schedule for some time, Women’s Sevens is due to debut at the Games in 2018 on the Gold Coast. A mouth-watering prospect when you consider that the top four teams in both the Men’s and the Women’s world rankings are Commonwealth nations.

The future of Rugby Sevens is therefore looking bright especially for the women’s game with the ARU adding to the recent spoils this week by proffering the possibility of a professional domestic Women’s competition as early as next year. Conceding that the plan is still very much in the conceptual stage, it still opens up the debate around possible development pathways and the growth of local Rugby Sevens generally and Women’s Sevens specifically.


 

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