$20,000 in first prizemonies up for grabs at Kingdom 7s
By STAFF REPORTERS
NUKU’ALOFA-August 30, 4.40pm (Nuku’alofa Times): Taking local sevens rugby to another level is the aim of the Tonga Kingdom 7s Incorporated, a new registered local entity that will focus on organising and staging sevens rugby tournaments here in Tonga.
The entity will be hosting the firstever Kingdom 7s tournament on October 6-7 this year at the Ha’alano Grounds in Kolomotu’a.
That event has been jointly sponsored by Digicel and the UN Women as the major sponsors for 2017 – with both putting up a total of $20,000 Pa’anga to be shared amongst the three category winners.
The Open Men’s winner will go home with $10,000, Women Open winner with $6,000 while the Under-18 Women’s champion team will take home $4,000.
Committee secretary Iliesa Tora said the Kingdom 7s idea was something he and former Tonga 7s rugby director and head coach Eddie Waqa had discussed back five years ago.
The late Waqa, who was recruited from Fiji to come and direct the development of sevens rugby here, wanted to see a series of local sevens rugby tournaments here, with the main one becoming an international event where overseas clubsides can be invited to.
“He thought that if we had a series and were playing sevens rugby regularly that would help lift the knowledge base and skills of players, while at the same time giving them more playing time, which is badly lacking here,” Tora said.
“And the main event was to be an international invitational as well, where the top local clubsides will have the opportunity to play against some overseas clubsides.”
While the idea has been floated around in the last five years it was not until Tonga Women’s Rugby was involved that it started to become a reality.
Tonga Women’s Rugby President Hoko Tuivai took up the idea after she was briefed by Tora and got her contacts and officials together to discuss the idea.
A proposal put forward by Tora was accepted and received unanimous support – resulting in the setting up of the Kingdom 7s entity and the upcoming inaugural event.
Talitha Project Director Vanessa Heleta was appointed committee President and with her deputy in Cassandra Moala-Mafi, the committee quickly put together sponsorship proposals seeking funding support.
Digicel and UN Women put their hands up and have joined the bandwagon.
Commenting at the official launch, Mr. Ben Kealy, CEO of Digicel Tonga said the event will help develop and foster local players for national team selections.
“The Kingdom 7s Tournament is aimed to not only showcase the rugby talent we have in the country, but also to develop and foster local players for both men and women at a national level. This tournament will provide the perfect opportunity for International Clubs to see local talent at play,” he said.
Chairperson of the Kingdom 7’s Organising Committee, Vanessa said they were delighted with the commitment from the major sponsors.
“We are delighted to have Digicel on board as our major sponsor for this first ever event as it speaks volume of their commitment to Tonga Rugby and allows us to also educate both our men and women on the importance of equal opportunities where Rugby is concerned,” she said.
“The tournament will help the Committee establish a database of all Tongan 7’s rugby players whether male or female and is critical to the selection process of the country’s National 7s Teams at the International Sevens Rugby Series.”
She also thanked the UN Women for supporting the event, which will also be used to promote ‘ending violence against women and children”.
The UN Tonga Office Representative in Tonga, Ms Milika Tuita said “ the UNWomen Office is proud to co-fund the Kingdom 7s tournament alongside Digicel, as the event is pivotal in adding momentum towards the implementation of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5: Achieving Gender Equality and Empowering Women and Girls”.
The event will kick-off with a march through Nuku’alofa on October 5, finishing off at the Digicel Park.
A total of 16 men’s teams will be accepted for the Open Men’s competition.
Only eight women’s teams will be involved – with 4 in the Open Women and 4 in the Under-18 categories.
Vanessa said the idea of having Under-18 women shows the committee’s commitment to helping develop women’s rugby here from an early stage.
Registration is now open and teams can contact Hoko Tuivai on telephone 7714098 or 8786661.
The committee will accept teams that register and pay their deposits either in full or half on a ‘first pay, first come basis’.
Registration fees are $700 for the Men’s Open, $400 for the Women’s Open and $300 for the Under-18’s.
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