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Wellington 7s

Rashneel Kumar
Sunday, February 17, 2013

KAILA - ON the morning of Day One of the Wellington Sevens tournament, I wandered around the city looking for sunnies. You know those cool ones with funky designs on the sides.

Then much to my surprise, I bumped into a group of monks drinking beer at a pub.

Before I could make any assumption, I realised they were not the real monks but spectators dressed as monks priming up for the festivity at the Cake Tin.

They were not the only group that amused me and got me into the so-called Wellington 7s fever, there were others as well.

The tournament started at around midday so those early birds to the city couldn't find a better place than pubs to mingle and get ‘into the mood' of sevens rugby.

After managing to get a good bargain on the sunnies, I headed straight for the Westpac Stadium.

I thought of saving some bucks and taking a stroll instead but the fear of getting lost, which I had been a couple of days before, forced me to take a cab.

The taxi driver, who seemed to be in his late 60s, obviously wasn't interested in the conversation about Wellington 7s and snubbed my eagerness to know more by posing questions on situationa back home.

Someone told me before I left Fiji for Wellington 7s to loosen up my journalistic thoughts for a few minutes and feel the atmosphere at the Cake Tin and observe the behaviour of the fans.

I got to work straightaway but not before bragging about my million dollar view from the media centre in the stadium on Facebook.

There were only a few people on the stands when I buried myself in my laptop following Fiji's loss in the opening pool match against Scotland.

When I was done with my early sports report which was just before Fiji's second pool match against Australia, I was amazed to see how fast the stadium filled up.

The stands were almost full and there were like thousands of people dancing with their plastic bottle of Speight's beer.

We had to go through the crowd and along the sidelines to get to the team recovery tunnel for interviews, which was like 200 metres away from the media booth.

Our media assistant, a young and nice looking female, guided the troop and pushed her way through the boozy and semi-naked fans before we jumped onto the field.

Avoiding all those big live television cameras and requests from people in the crowd to sign autographs, I had no idea what they thought of me because I definitely don't look like a rugby star. I walked past with my sunnies on and a nervous smile on my face.

I assume no better person than the players themselves can fill the thrill of being part of an event of such magnitude.

Wellington 7s is seriously not for the fainthearted especially on the ground level.

On my way up to the media booth, I took a closer look at the fans and their wacky costumes.

You have people dressed as Supermen, Ironmen, Batmen, priests, pirates, movie stars, pop stars, PSY (gangnam style fame) and many more.

Sevens fans managed to get in with imitation firearms and fluoro vests and well, a near-naked woman had just enough body paint to pass the decency test.

They were lost in their fun world sipping their beers and soft-drinks, paying less, and some, relatively no attention to what's going on the field.

There are loyal fans like the Fijians and Samoans who seem to be on their toes, ready to cheer their teams up.

There is a lot of cheering when New Zealand enters the field and they deserve that being the home team.

During the games, there were some over intoxicated fans who in their crazy moments, jumped onto the field, creating a chaotic moment for the security guards.

A guy managed to dodge the first two security officers and raced along the field with the game going on before an oncoming security guard brought him down with a well-timed spear tackle!

That was followed by big boos from the crowd and as many cheered him along for that foolish act.

The drama continues after the game as the fans make their way home.

Some fans are too drunk and their disorderly act at public places outside of the stadium gets them into trouble.

This year the Wellington police booked close to 70 fans for drunk and disorderly cases at the Wellington 7s.

After the second day of the competition, the crowd moved to the Wellington City CBD area where the party continued until the wee hours of the morning.

Certain streets were blocked to allow people more space to party.

As I sat at the Wellington Airport lounge on Sunday evening after the tournament, waiting for my flight to Auckland, a bunch of teenagers, both boys and girls, came and sat in front me.

One of them asked "by the way, who won the tournament".

The other responded "Oh yeah, you were pretty drunk to remember that aye".

The taxi driver's words hit me then.

He said Wellington 7s since its humble beginning in 2000 has become more of a festival and less of a rugby competition.

I realised, many going there are looking forward to a weekend of hot weather, fun, a few drinks - oh, and the rugby.

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