© Copyright – 2018 – Victoria Sports News

Magali Harvey scored five tries and was named player of the match. Photo credit: Rugby Canada

In the competitive landscape of sports entertainment, much pressure has been applied to competitive teams, leagues and sports organizations to better capture an audience’s attention and to keep them coming back repeatedly. The evolution of sports entertainment and its value has escalated more recently.

Demanding spectators want value not just for their dollar, but also for their time investment. The pressure has caused sports and tournaments to grasp for the brass ring by re-inventing the foundation that they built their respective sports on.

Twenty-plus years ago, the National Hockey League added rules that pared-off a valuable 10-15-minutes from the three-hour games and got them down to 2:40-2:50. Some measures worked and some failed, all in the name of making the game more television-friendly, as the NHL pursued a major network deal. They have ventured various new rules like the hurry-up faceoff, although that fizzled, automatic penalties like goaltender interference and delay-of-game when shooting the puck over the glass. Goalies no longer get a warm-up when relieving the starter. The league is perpetually trying to improve its product. Today’s game looks very different than it did during the 1980s and the 1990s.

In 2003, cricket came up with Twenty20, a faster and more exciting version of their traditional multi-day grind, they pared it down to three hours. The Winter Olympics brought in X Game-style sports that are more extreme and shorter in competition time, with quickly-organized elimination rounds. Check out snow cross as well as half-pipe in boarding and skiing.  The athletes bring the vibe, but the Olympics are still very serious, it’s an intoxicating mix.

One of the most popular evolutionary projects that has really taken hold is rugby sevens, specifically women’s rugby sevens.

Women’s rugby sevens borrows from the traditional 15s game known as Rugby Union, in play, but with just seven players and short, seven-minute halves. In rugby sevens, from a player’s perspective, you are either hyped, ready for action and feeling intense about the upcoming game, or it is over before it starts. There is no, feeling out the competition as per traditional sports where you have the luxury of three-plus hours like in football, baseball or tennis.

If your rugby sevens team wins, they will be playing again shortly as all matches (being so short) are played tournament style, which makes for an exciting day at the pitch. If your team loses, it’s a merciful short day.

The current world champions are non-other than the New Zealand Black Ferns, a traditional powerhouse rugby nation in the 15s. The All-Blacks, with the silver fern, are as synonymous with the sport as are the New York Yankees to baseball, Los Angeles Lakers to basketball and Manchester United to soccer.

Not too far behind, in terms of commanding respect, is the red and white of Team Canada, a major player on the international scene. They are fast, powerful, talented and well-coached.

Team Canada’s women’s rugby sevens, who train out of Victoria (Langford), compete in an entertaining league. Unlike the crass women’s football league, where objectivity is not just a distraction, it’s the show, women’s rugby sevens is just as thrilling sport-wise as any male-oriented game and perhaps even more so.

Also, unlike international women’s hockey, rugby sevens permits full contact, all the time, just like the 15s. Rugby gets their audience.

Women’s ice hockey completely misses the queue by leaving out hitting and penalizing players for contact. While hockey (men’s and women’s) grapples with its image, rugby embraces the hitting; each take-down, hit and tackle is skilfully done. Injuries, on a per-hit basis and concussions on a per hit basis, are lower than football and hockey and yet the sport requires almost no protective gear.

Rugby sevens is a violent sport played by women who are tough, talented and skilled.

As a fan, you can identify your favourite player, because the athlete is not completely covered up by padding and helmets and shields making it very much a fan-friendly game.

The league or “series” that women’s rugby sevens compete in is called the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series, which was started in 2012. Twelve teams currently participate, representing their nation in the global league.

New Zealand has won the series championships four out of five years, with Australia winning in 2015-2016. Canada has earned silver once in 2014-2015 and bronze four out of five years. In the Rio Olympic Games, Australia won gold, NZ silver and Canada bronze. Canada finished second during the 2013 rugby sevens world championships.

The latest world championships the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament was organized by World Rugby, it was held at AT&T Park in San Francisco. The tournament took place on 20–22 July 2018. New Zealand again won, France earned silver and Australia bronze. Canada, unfortunately, finished seventh.

Canada, however, finished third behind New Zealand and the USA during the first tournament of the 2018-2019 season. League standings are here>> 

The next tournament takes place in Dubai on November 29 and 30th.