Sevens spike pushes participation up for 2016

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

A 37 percent spike in the number of Aussies trying their hand at Sevens has boosted the total number of rugby participants for 2016.

In a year in which the Australian Women's Sevens stole the hearts of the nation en route to an Olympic Gold Medal at the Rio Olympics, there was a 33 percent increase in the number of women playing Sevens, mainly driven in Queensland and New South Wales schools.

There was also a carry on effect to women's XVs, where club rugby participation increased by 24 percent, according to the 2016 ARU annual report, released today.

Couple that with a 39 percent increase in the number of men playing Sevens and the foundation for the 2.1 percent increase in total rugby participation has its foundation.

A total 273,095 people participated in rugby in 2016 - an increase of 5632 from the year prior.

Norths broke their Shute Shield drought on Saturday. Photo: Karen WatsonWhere the numbers are perhaps a touch concerning is the continual slide of total club rugby participation.

While it did not fall as much as the year prior, a -0.8 percent decrease was registered in 2016.

The "Game On" program, in which school kids are taught the basics of rugby in a five-week crash course, has not yet translated to additional club participation, despite its success to date.

The age bracket of biggest concern is U12 to U18, where there was a -7.5 percent decline in 2016 compared to the year prior.

Game On has grown popularity in 2016. Photo; Getty Images“We set ourselves very ambitious targets for 2016 participation, especially considering our new strategic participation initiatives, Game On and VIVA7s, were only launched in 2015 and these programs generally take a while to build momentum," ARU CEO Bill Pulver said.

“However, what we saw last year was a real appetite for rugby across the country.

"With the buzz around the Olympics, Sevens participation growth was huge.

"VIVA7s participation grew by more than 150% with profits from the program flowing directly back into clubs.

"Game On also exceeded its 2020 participation target, reaching 54,890 primary students, 60% of whom were from government schools.

“While we’re disappointed about the net decline in Club XVs, we have to recognise that our progress in growing other formats of the game is helping to build sustainable growth for the future, and that this growth will eventually have positive flow on effects into Club XVs rugby.

“We’re trying to grow the game by making rugby more accessible, and initiatives such as VIVA7s and Game On are enabling us to expand rugby’s footprint so that it becomes embedded in the public and private school systems for both boys and girls.”