Running Rugby was once again a feature at the fifth annual Gambling Help Ella 7s at BCU International Stadium in Coffs Harbour last weekend.
With 32 teams competing for a collective prize pool of $30,000, the Gambling Help Ella 7s was deemed an overwhelming success by Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team Executive Officer Tom Evans as the level of competition was a step up from the already impressive 2011 tournament.
“It was a very exciting tournament with some extremely close games,” Evans said.
“It was a massive success. Even though the weather wasn’t great, the games were all played in a great spirit.
“The standard of Rugby continues to improve. From where we started five years ago, the calibre has come on in leaps and bounds.
“The competition was exceptional and every game inspired and entertained.”
Adding to the excitement of the weekend, tournament favourites Boomanulla Knight Riders and Sydney Skindogs both failed to make the Cup final, reinforcing the unpredictable nature of the seven-a-side version of the game.
The Knight Riders were heavy favourites in the lead up to the tournament, with the team featuring former Wallaby and Australian Men’s Sevens player Andrew Walker and former Australian Men’s Sevens player Arthur Little.
The two-day competition, which saw 24 men’s and eight women’s teams vie for glory, threw up a new winner in the men’s competition with the Cup final being claimed by Mindaribba over the Anthony Anno Avery Team 28-7. The women’s final was a more tightly contested affair with the Redfern Legends defeating Murri Magic 22-17.
Evans said the fact that the men’s final was won by a team who had never won it before suggested the strength of the field was improving.
“In previous years we’ve had one or two favourites, now we have half a dozen favourites,” Evans said.
“The teams are taking the tournament very seriously and as such the quality of the tournament continues to improve.”
The tournament boasted a collection of Rugby royalty with all three Ella brothers in attendance along with Lloyd McDermott, Jim Williams, Lloyd Walker and Selena Tranter.
Established in 2008, the Gambling Help Ella 7s is a key event for the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team, which aims to promote Rugby among young Indigenous men and women.
The tournament also acts as a selection tool for the men’s and women’s National Indigenous Sevens Teams with coaches Glen Ella and Selena Tranter paying close attention to the talent on display.
Tranter is due to name her side next week as the women prepare for the inaugural Australian Rugby Union National Women’s Sevens Championships, held at Sydney’s St. Ignatius Riverview from April 13 to 15.
Meanwhile Glen Ella will name his side next month, with the men focused on a series of domestic tournaments including Gold Coast, Noosa and Central Coast.