Shift from Queenstown lamented but no going back

A view from the bank at the 2013 national sevens tournament in Queenstown. Photo: Getty Images
A view from the bank at the 2013 national sevens tournament in Queenstown. Photo: Getty Images
There may have been empty seats and zero atmosphere at the new tournament in Tauranga, but the horse had bolted in getting the sevens back to Queenstown.

After a small crowd at the tournament at the Tauranga Domain, minds start to question why the event ever moved from Queenstown.

Played in early February,  the tournament had 10 years at the Queenstown Recreation Ground,

where it drew packed crowds and  was played mostly stunning sunshine.  It was popular with players and fans. The last one was held there in 2013.

It then moved to Rotorua for four years before being switched to Tauranga for two days of action last weekend.

Crowds were sparse in Rotorua at the International Stadium and at Tauranga it was no better.  Otago coach Roy Hawker said there was no crowd in Tauranga, with none of the atmosphere the Queenstown tournament had.

Queenstown  had many advantages which made it a success.

Clark Frew, who was chairman of the organising committee of the tournament for many years, said the ground right at the heart of town helped the tournament.

"People could come and go, watch a bit of rugby and then go away and get some food and then come back to the rugby," he said.

"It was also the ideal time for us. The town was pumping and full to the brim and the sevens was an added attraction that weekend."

Frew said after 10 years the contract went to a formal bid process and Queenstown got down to the last two but missed out to Bay of Plenty, which was backed by a local council, while the major backer for the Queenstown bid could not immediately guarantee finance as the tournament fell outside its financial year.

Frew said it cost more to host it in Queenstown as teams flew in. Many North Island teams would have  gone by bus to Tauranga.

With  women’s teams playing now, two grounds were needed. Frew said help from the Queenstown Lakes District Council could have enabled an upgrade  of the Queenstown Primary School field to allow games to be played there. Frew said the tournament was unlikely to come back to Queenstown. Over time, petitions had been launched to bring it back south. But those involved in running it  had moved on and Tauranga had a contract for three more years.

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