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By ARU Media Unit
The fast-paced action of the new Olympic sport, Rugby Sevens will hit Coffs Harbour this Friday when the first Ella Sevens Rugby tournament kicks off for the year.
The sixth annual two-day tournament is the marquee event for Indigenous Rugby Sevens within the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team (LMRDT) program, which aims to promote Rugby Union for Indigenous men and women.
A total of 32 teams, including 24 men’s and 8 women’s, will compete this Friday 1 March and Saturday 2 March.
Around 400 participants have the opportunity to play and show off their skills in Rugby Sevens across the two days, with the chance to be selected for Men’s and Women’s National Indigenous Sevens Teams.
Former Wallaby, Andrew Walker, who was a member of the triumphant Wallabies team during the 2001 British & Irish Lions Tour to Australia, will be starring in the tournament for the Knight Riders.
The tournament is only getting bigger and better, with this weekend’s competition in Coffs Harbour now one of three Ella Sevens tournaments after expanding in 2012 to include Cairns and Brisbane, creating even further opportunities for rising Indigenous Rugby talent.
LMRDT’s Executive Officer, Tom Evans said the Ella Sevens is a great opportunity for Indigenous Rugby players.
“The Ella Sevens is our signature tournament for Indigenous Rugby. I’m really proud to see it growing each year.
“The tournament is a great opportunity for Indigenous players to get involved in the game of Rugby Sevens.
“It also offers a great pathway for future Indigenous Rugby talent to progress to the professional levels of Rugby in Australia.
“Now that Rugby Sevens is an Olympic sport there is an added prospect for Indigenous Rugby talent to play for their country, which I’m sure will attract a lot more interest in the tournament.
"I’d like to thank the NSW Minister for Sport, Graham Annesley, for the support provided by the Government through the Office of Communities: Sport and Recreation,” Mr Evans said.
Ella Sevens is one of the many competitions run by the LMRDT providing opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in Rugby from the grassroots to professional level and potentially on the pathway to gold, with Rugby Sevens set to make its debut at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
At least one member of every team competing in this week’s Ella Sevens has also starred in the LMRDT’s other Indigenous Rugby initiatives, including the U16’s Santos National Indigenous Championship and the National Indigenous Schoolboys team in the U18s Australian School’s Championship.
The Ella Sevens tournament is named after the famous Ella brothers, Mark, Gary and Glen. Two of the brothers, Glen and Gary Ella will be at this week’s tournament in Coffs Harbour, with Glen again coaching the women’s La Pa Lovelies and men’s Nephews side.
The tournament kicks off this Friday at 6:30pm, with 12 games scheduled for the first day. Action resumes Saturday at 9.00am with games running until 12:30pm, before knockout finals get underway at 1:20pm. The final championship game is scheduled for 5:50pm Saturday.
The Ella Sevens Tournaments are proudly supported by the Australian Federal and NSW Government.
Qantas Australian Men's Sevens Head Coach Geraint John has lauded his charges after they recorded their second top-three finish in consecutive weeks.