Central Coast Sevens Future in Doubt; LWOR Exclusive with Craig Morgan

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Central Coast Sevens
October 25 - Australia's most prestigious rugby sevens festival outside the World-Series featuring premier domestic and international competitors in men ad women's tournaments. (Photo courtesy of CC7s Facebook page)

In an unexpected development, the future of arguably the best sevens tournament in Australia, is in doubt. Tournament Co-ordinator of the Central Coast Sevens Craig Morgan put out a statement detailing his withdrawal from running the tourney.

The tournament has been dubbed by many sevens rugby pundits as ‘the best sevens tournament outside the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series’. It has a fine history, beginning in 2009, the news that the central figure in building up that pedigree is leaving, came as a shock to Last Word on Rugby.

Central Coast Sevens (CC7s) has produced stars like Henry Hutchinson, Semi Kunatani, Murphy Taramai, Charlotte Caslick, Dominique Du Toit among others. Retiring Aussie 7s captain Ed Jenkins played several times, as did invited teams from across the Pacific and the World.

It will be dearly missed, if the event is not held again.

The tournament has produced so many stars in the past who have gone on to represent their nations.

Future of Central Coast Sevens in Doubt

With messages of support coming in from supporters like Sir Gordon Tietjens and Andy Friend (Aussie 7s coach) the sentiment is of appreciation for the event, while it lasted. LWOR was fortunate enough to talk exclusively to Craig Morgan, about his decision.

LWOR: What has made you take this decision?

“The decision has been a culmination of many things. We have advocated for the game in Australia very hard and it had become extremely draining and frustrating. Which makes you assess what you are doing and why you are doing it and ultimately sometimes you have to make the tough decision. To step aside to allow yourself to take a breath and for peace of mind.

“My son was three when the tournament started. My daughter knows no different with the tournament existing every year of her life. I’ve spent the majority of my kids life consumed with the tournament and advocating. What really feels like fighting for the game here and I don’t want to fight anymore.”

LWOR: Was this the plan all along?

“There was no plan as such, to cease as I really love the tournament. I’ve put so much of myself into the event, however the time felt right personally. A close friend told me everyone should have an end game and this is mine.

“The tournament is highly regarded and labelled by many prominent 7s people as the worlds best invitational tournament so it’s great to be able to go out on top with the tournament holding such a great standing in the game.

“The plan or hope was always that one of the governing bodies would eventually see the tournament as an asset and utilise it in a grander scale for the good of the game.

LWOR: Where did you see the event heading?

“We have been calling for sometime for the need of a World Rugby sponsored Tier Two Series, utilising the various established higher profile and quality tournaments around the world CC7s, Coral Coast, Amsterdam, Singapore, Rome etc.

“Where the developing nations can get much needed game time against select tier 1 sides, similar to what we already facilitate just in a world rugby sanctioned series. It just makes sense to us alternatively we had hoped regionally that Oceania Rugby and or Rugby Australia would see the opportunity. To use the tournament and become actively involved.

“There’s a great chance in front of both organisations to use the tournament to drive the game in the Pacific and within Australia. If there was a bit of vision and initiative. Rugby Australia should be looking to be directly operational within Sevens. There is too much opportunity for them not to but that’s for them to realise”

LWOR: Will you be helping in other areas of Aussie Grassroots rugby?

“I have been the General Manager of the Parramatta Two Blues premier rugby club in Sydney for the last 12 months. I am very driven to see the club return to being one of the strongest clubs in the competition. And within Australia over the next few years so I am definitely involved in rugby. However as much as I love Sevens my involvement will be limited to allow me to step back for peace of mind.”

LWOR: Will you be willing to take up the responsibility again of heading CC7s team?

“If a suitable organisation has interest in the tournament for the right reasons. I would be willing to support and assist in a handover of sorts to allow the new facilitator to get on their feet fast and ensure they learn the tournaments intricacies.

“We are very protective of the tournament and have had interest from entities previously, however the intentions need to be legitimate to protect the tournaments standing and reputation. I have worked too hard for tournaments standards and reputation to be lowered.”

High profile leaders of the game, like Ben Ryan, often praise the event as World Class.

An image of CC7s Craig Morgan with Ben Ryan – courtesy of Craig Morgan, Facebook.
LWOR: Highlights of your tenure as tournament coordinator?

“There are too many highlights to mention them all: It is still extremely humbling that teams hold the tournament in such high regard to travel so far at great expense to be part of the tournament. The fact that teams want to be part of what we are doing is still mind blowing to us and our biggest compliment.

“The numerous players who have come through the tournament to go on to earn International honors. The many identified at the tournament for their various nations. Seeing some of the best players in the world take to the field DJ Forbes, Scott Curry, Sherwin Stowers, Semi Kunatani, Ed Jenkins, Jesse Parahi, Ben Gollings, Jerry Tuwai, Shanon Parry, Sharni Williams, Caslick, Jen Kish, Sarah Goss and so many more.

Morgan was very proud of the impact the sport, and the CC7’s event has on the community. He said “the community impact with team visits to schools, The Glen Drug & Alcohol rehabilitation Centre. Seeing the impact and engagement the tournament offers one image that sticks in my mind are a group of young girls all sitting on the laps of the Aussie 7s players, casually enjoying meeting their idols in the team camp area. It is beautiful to see the openness and natural interaction between these little girls and their idols.

“Having a positive impact on the game itself and to be labelled the best invitational tournament in the world outside the World Series by highly respected people like Ben Ryan and Jen Kish is unbelievable and a major compliment.

“We never set out to be the best just do our best. Being able to meet so many wonderful people within 7s. I have been fortunate to meet some great people and build great friendships and acquaintances.

LWOR: The upside of organizing the CC7s?

“The upside of running the tournament has been the impact we have had on the 7s game in Australia. A lot of the response to our announcement talks of leaving a legacy. That would be nice to think however our focus was always just to do our best. The other upside is the many highlights and memories. We take away with us which will be life long memories along with the many friendships.”

LWOR: Downside of running a tourney?

“The downside to running the tournament is being affected by the tournaments success with the additional pressure and focus to deliver at a high level and be consistent each year. Particularly running with what would be one of the smallest tournament crews in Australia. We take lots of pride in our work which comes with a lot of pressure to meet your own expectations let alone others.

“Frustrations in gaining (or not gaining) any real support from the rugby bodies locally on the coast through to Rugby Australia has been a constant battle and frustration. Hence maybe our expectations of others were too high resulting in frustration building.

“Sometimes moments of negativity have been draining, some people want to use you others want to criticise to raise their own profiles.

Craig Morgan’s Message to Aspiring Tournament Co-ordinators

“My message to aspiring tournament coordinators would be go for it but do so without expectations so you are less likely to be disappointed. Be prepared to stand on your own two feet, be very organised. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask advice and make sure you have a solid team behind you. No matter how big or small.”

LWOR: Message to all players and officials who have grazed the CC7s?

“We would like to sincerely thank all of the players and officials who have supported the Central Coast Sevens and myself personally. The teams make any tournament and the way in which you regard the CC7s so highly is the greatest compliment we could achieve.

LWOR: Names of stars that were unearthed at the CC7s? (whichever nation)

“There have been numerous players identified Semi Kunatani has always impressed us with his humility and is a superstar of the game. It was humbling to have Murphy Taramai openly thank us at a NZ7’s tournament dinner in 2015. As he had been identified the year before by Sir Gordon Tietjens, when playing for Wellington at this tournament.

‘There have been too many players to mention but another is simply providing the platform for players to be identified. Along with providing the opportunity for teams to compete against some of the worlds best allowing them to benchmark themselves, develop and test themselves. It’s within this environment that allows scouts to see the ability of players to match it with the best.

“We must also mention the match officials who also use the tournament as a development event, we often hear the call for experienced match officials to gain experience we must give them experiences . The Central Coast Sevens is proud to have been a development ground for players and match officials alike”

Calling Rugby Sevens Stakeholders to ‘Step Up’

It is clear from the interview with Craig, how unhappy he is with rugby sevens stakeholders. In his eyes, they should have realised by now the potential and the reach of the Central Coast Sevens.

However, the biggest loser here is Rugby Australia, as it has lost one of the best tournaments that unearthed potential stars for them. Hopefully, the new CEO Raelene Castle at the the helm can change this lack of prioritizing the grassroots. Even with the outpouring of recent support, the point remains – losing the CC7s, it will be sorely missed.

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LWOR would like to thank Craig Morgan and his team for their support of our lead writer Jovilisi Waqa. Helping our staff to cover their tournament over the past three years.

We wish him and his family all the best in their future endeavors.

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