In the space of seven days, sporting fans in Aotearoa were treated to a double dose of highly athletic contact sport. We got this double dose for the second time as the NRL Nines went back to Auckland for another weekend to warm the taste buds for the Wellington Sevens. This was the second year and so we got a much better idea as to how these two events fit in to the sporting landscape.
"Warm the taste buds for the Wellington Sevens" might not be the most accurate statement that I've made, but it's still some what true. I mean look at the Sevens, sure Westpac Stadium might not have been full to the brim, but we still got the same action as we always get from the Sevens and to directly compare the events will only result in tears.
Yes, the Wellington Sevens and NRL Nines can co-exist. But the mentality of the public and media has to change as there's enough sport fans/people who like to dress up and get drunk in Aotearoa that they can both be successful, they don't need to be looked at as competition against each other from our viewpoint. Instead, they need to be seen as a reason why Aotearoa is one of the greatest sporting nations on this lovely planet. If Aotearoa is able to pull off two highly popular events which are an all round entertainment package not seen before then we've hit the jackpot haven't we.
Unfortunately, we haven't quite got there. But this was only the second year with both these events on the calender and you can already see the signs of co-existence. It's unrealistic to expect punters to go to both events, I mean some would have been scraping the barrel to go to either event. Now the decision is which event to go to, there's no reason why each event can't be a near sell out, completely separately.
But some sport lovers and those with a penchant for a good time could definitely attend both events thanks to them being a week apart. That's the best thing about the co-existence of these events and it would have been pretty dumb to have both on the same weekend, despite the crowded sporting market at this time of year you can pick and choose which event you want to go to. Let's be honest, a fair amount of the Sevens crowd come from outside of Wellington, while I'd bet a buck that a large portion of the NRL Nines crowd were Aucklanders. That's just thanks to Auckland having a larger population and greater access to the NRL Nines, but there's still going to be a fair amount of Jaffa's heading down to Wellington to escape for the weekend.
For me, the ball is in court of the public and the Wellington Sevens. We, as kiwis love to talk ourselves up as sporting fanatics, but we are reasonably poor supporters of live sport. This is a chance for the public to show that they can support two highly entertaining events, by getting along and going nuts in the stands. It's not how it used to be where if you didn't want to go to the Sevens, you twiddled your thumbs. Nah, now you have a choice and the public has the chance over the next few years to back up their talk.
We saw that the Sevens still has plenty to offer in terms of exciting 7-a-side rugby, but with the new kid on the block being the NRL Nines, the Sevens has up their game a bit to offer a package that is on par with the NRL Nines. In that sense, yes these two events are very much competing against each other and if the NRL Nines is consistently the better event, then it's hard to see the Sevens maintaining much relevance. We as a nation like to think we love Sevens, but in reality we don't really care, that's not enough to keep the Sevens afloat.
That's obviously good though, because the Sevens need to be creative, they need to think outside the box and keep switching things up. Who knows, this might result in cheaper drinks at the bar or cheaper and better food. These are the sort of things that people look at and the experience for the consumer should become a lot better thanks to the competition between the events.
Alcohol. These events are going to serve lots of alcohol, the punters are going to consume a lot of alcohol and families are still going to be able to have a good time. For these two events to co-exist, the public and the fun police are going to have to be comfortable with what these events are. They aren't events where people sit down and take notes on the games dummy, they're events where people go simply for a good time.
If you want to shelter your children from what the real world is like, then don't take them, stay at home and watch it from the couch. There's no reason why you can't take the entire family to these events as there's enough fun to be had for the kids and both events will have to step up their game in terms of offering entertainment for the youngins who aren't going to sit in their seat for a whole day.
Let's stop pretending that these events aren't what they are. That's the first step in both events having consistent success, from there both events will need to raise their game to compete with the other event which will only increase the quality of the events. When both events are on par in terms of the complete entertainment package they offer, then people will be willing to splash out and sell out both of them.