The Dominion Post

It’s Wellington or nowhere for our embarrassi­ng sevens


Sunday at Westpac Stadium was miserable. Honestly, there could scarcely have been a less enjoyable place in the world to be.

Cold, windy and rubbishstr­ewn; the stadium really is an inhospitab­le venue. Wellington Sevens organisers claim about 10,000 people were there, which seems hard to believe.

They said the same number turned up on day one of the tournament - or should we more accurately call it Wellington’s annual embarrassm­ent - and that’s fair enough. But if we take that figure at face value, then there’s no way the place was as full on Sunday.

Who could blame them for not coming. The fact a lot of the, alleged, entertainm­ent at the ground is still built around a bloke dressed up as Austin Powers tells you everything you need to know about how tired and tragic the Wellington Sevens experience has become.

The costumes in the stands are just as old hat and whether you can now buy some refreshmen­ts that taste of something other than salt is neither here nor there. The party was over ages ago.

That’s the realisatio­n New Zealand Rugby (NZR) chief strategy and operations officer Nigel Cass says they’re coming too. Shame it took them so long.

NZR has two years left on its three-year deal to host a round of the World Sevens Series and is stuck with Wellington. Other New Zealand cities and stadiums either don’t want it or don’t have the capability of getting this many teams and hangers-on in and out on internatio­nal flights or accommodat­ing them for a week. It either stays at Westpac Stadium or NZR admits defeat and wriggles out of its contract. Both options are humiliatin­g in their own way.

Cass admitted yesterday that virtually every option to fill the ground’s 34,500 seats has been tried and failed. He said around 14,000 people attended each of the two days last year and 10,000 wasn’t a viable number in any respect. Nor was going back to the levels of crowd intoxicati­on associated with the event’s heyday. NZR says it will now consider every option available and make some kind of announceme­nt in March. That includes the possibilit­y of admitting defeat and walking away.

The rugby argument for remaining a leg on the circuit is that it gives the New Zealand team the chance to play at home.

Well, such is the indifferen­ce of the rugby public that demoralise­d New Zealand co-coach Scott Waldrom said it felt as if the team was playing in Suva or Buenos Aires, given the levels of support Fiji and Argentina received when they met the hosts on Sunday.

Waldrom and company can probably count on getting more support at this weekend’s Sydney leg of the series, than they did here.

When you reach the point that NZR has where it is losing money and its team is feeling unloved, then there’s less shame in walking away than insisting - as Cass did this is a fine, well-delivered product that was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended.

It remains to be seen whether the two-year contract is seen out or the, official, end for the Wellington Sevens comes sooner. Sitting there on Sunday it was hard to escape the conclusion it’s time we were all put out of our misery.

 ?? PHIL WALTER/ GETTY IMAGES ?? There were many empty seats at Westpac Stadium throughout the Wellington Sevens weekend.
PHIL WALTER/ GETTY IMAGES There were many empty seats at Westpac Stadium throughout the Wellington Sevens weekend.

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