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By ARU Media Unit
The 2012 Gambling Help Ella 7s Rugby Tournament is set to light up Coffs Harbour this weekend when the fifth instalment of the two-day tournament kicks-off on Friday.
The annual Ella 7s Rugby Tournament, established in 2008, is the marquee event for the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team (LMRDT), which aims to promote Rugby among young Indigenous men and women.
This year a total of 32 teams, 24 men’s and eight women’s sides, will compete over two-days for $30,000 in prize money and the chance to be crowned the Ella 7s champions in 2012.
There is also the added incentive for players to perform at their best, with the 2012 tournament acting as a selection tool for the Men’s and Women’s National Indigenous Sevens Teams.
The tournament and its association with Australia’s Indigenous Rugby stars is key to the development of the sport’s profile among Indigenous athletes, as LMRDT Executive Officer Tom Evans explains.
“The Ellas are synonymous with running Rugby and Sevens and epitomise what this tournament stands for,” Evans said.
“The aim of the tournament is to provide indigenous Rugby players an opportunity to showcase their talent and potentially un-earth the next Ella brother or Kurtley Beale of Australian Rugby.”
In all, this year’s tournament will feature seven former Indigenous Wallabies stars, in the form of players, coaches and spectators. All three Ellas will be in attendance, with Mark and Glen coaching the Nambucca Neptunes and La Pa Lovelies respectively while brother Gary will be watching keenly from the grandstand.
Former Wallaby and Australian Men’s Sevens player Andrew Walker and former Australian Men’s Sevens player Tim Cornforth will compete in the tournament as members of the Boomanulla Knight Riders.
Former Wallabies Lloyd Walker, coach of the Boomanulla Knight Riders, Jim Williams and Lloyd McDermott will also be in attendance along with former Wallaroo Selena Tranter, who has been named head coach of the National Indigenous Women’s Sevens Team.
Evans is pleased with the support shown to the tournament by some of the greats of the game, as it provides perspective to the young, up-and-coming Indigenous Rugby players in the tournament.
“It gives the whole thing context. It shows the history of the game and the Indigenous players that have been a part of it,” Evans said.
“It provides an avenue for Indigenous people to have a link to Rugby. It’s a great opportunity to unearth talented players.”
Following the tournament, National Indigenous Sevens Teams coaches Selena Tranter and Glen Ella will select their sides.
Trantor’s mind will be on the inaugural Australian Rugby Union National Women’s Sevens Championships being held at Sydney’s St. Ignatius Riverview April 13 to 15.
While Glen’s attention will be focused on a number of domestic tournaments in 2012, including Gold Coast, Noosa and Central Coast events toward the end of the year.
The 2012 Gambling Help Ella 7s Rugby Tournament gets underway Friday at 6:30pm, with 12 games scheduled for the first day. Action resumes Saturday at 9am with games running until 12:30pm, before knockout finals get underway at 1:20pm. The final championship game is scheduled for 5:50pm Saturday.