Bring it back to Queenstown

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:00 14/01/2014
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Poll: Southern rugby fans are banging the drums loudly for the national provincial sevens tournament to return to Queenstown but it seems increasingly unlikely they will get their wish.

Queenstown was the home of the national sevens tournament for many years but the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union won the right to host this year's tournament, which was held at the weekend, in Rotorua.

The event will also return to Rotorua in January next year, with the prospect of it remaining there after that.

A Facebook page that was started in August titled "Bring the NZ 7's back to Queenstown", gained plenty of momentum at the weekend as people showed their disappointment that the tournament was being staged in Rotorua and not in Queenstown.

As of late yesterday, the page had close to 5000 likes and it had prompted a host of comments from people calling for the tournament to return to the resort town.

Many of the comments during the past couple of days were prompted by a perception that the Rotorua public hadn't supported the tournament and there was a poor turnout.

"Drop it, back to qtown where people embrace it and appreciate the event," Sam Baker said.

Jeremy Drake said: "Rotorua got nothing on Queenstown. Didn't see anyone on TV there watching it."

Kate Stark said: "Disappointed its in Rotorua was such a poor crowd turnout both days.... Unlike what happens in Queenstown!!! Take it back south!"

Bay of Plenty Rugby Union chief executive Mike Rogers defended the crowd numbers, saying while he was still yet to be provided with exact numbers for the weekend, he had been told that it stacked up well compared to Queenstown.

He said because the 25,000-capacity stadium in Rotorua was a much bigger ground than in Queenstown, and the fact the tournament was played across two grounds, there was a perception from those watching television that the numbers were smaller than those for Queenstown.

"The feedback I got was that the crowd was greater than what there was in Queenstown, but I don't have accurate numbers yet," he said.

"The goal is to grow it and get more and more people along."

Rogers said with the tournament growing to 26 teams across the men's and women's sections, it now had to be played across two grounds to fit it all in over two days.

With SKY TV covering only the games on the main ground, that also irked some people who previously had been able to watch their men's team play every game, live on television.

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The Bay of Plenty Rugby Union boss paid tribute to those in Queenstown who revived the national provincial sevens tournament but he said hosting the tournament was now logistically a much bigger beast as the sport gets bigger and bigger because of its Olympic status.

"You're almost doubling the event – in terms of 16 teams you can do that on one field quite easily and, in terms of tents and accommodation, I guess it makes it a lot smoother operation. But when you've 26 teams to cater for, it becomes very big. The number of officials grows, the number of volunteers grows; we need 26 liaison officers where before you only needed 16."

Another advantage Rotorua is touted as having over Queenstown is its convenient location, being easier for the many North Island teams to get to it.

Where most of the teams were required to fly to Queenstown, a lot now can drive.

Each union pays a set entry fee no matter if how far they have to travel, and that entry has been able to be reduced this year.

"It has reduced a lot of costs and out of that we were able to pass some of that on to the unions. It's obviously a tough environment out there at the moment."

Southland sevens coach Elgan O'Donnell felt Rotorua probably didn't have the spark to it that Queenstown had and he believed that Queenstown had better spectator turnouts.

"It felt like there wasn't any atmosphere," he said yesterday.

"Obviously, when all the games were played on one field and the crowd was so close to the ground, it created that atmosphere. I think it will get better, they will learn a lot from this, but I felt personally Queenstown was far superior."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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