Ella in sevens heaven
By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
EVERY great journey begins with a single step and former Wallaby Glen Ella is hoping that this weekend's Ella Sevens Rugby Union Championship at the BCU International Stadium proves to be that vital first step.
The former Australian Sevens coach can't wait for this weekend's tournament for indigenous players to get underway but he's already looking to make the event a regular occurrence.
"We've spoken to the guys here in Coffs Harbour as we want this to be an annual event," he said.
"We want to do it here easily for the next three years and then beyond that. If we make it successful and do the right things like look after the place then we're keen to keep on coming back.
"Next year we want 16 men's teams and 20 teams in three years time then we want 24, that's what we want to do."
The seven-a-side tournament has been organised by the Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team (LMRDT), an organisation that is dedicated to promoting rugby union to young Aboriginal men and women by increasing participation in the sport.
Ella said there would be a lot of untapped potential on display this weekend when play begins at 9am both today and tomorrow.
"A lot of these guys will be rugby league guys so it will give them a taste of rugby for the first time, especially sevens-type rugby where it isn't as regimented and defensively orientated as the 15s," he added.
There are plenty of reasons for all the participants to put on a good show.
The prize for winning the tournament is $7500.
Little wonder that the 12 men's teams and four women's teams that have entered have travelled from as far away as Moree, Darwin, Brisbane, Waterloo, La Perouse and Penrith.
There's also the opportunity to be selected to play for an indigenous team in Papua New Guinea later this year.
"We've got a Tier 2 tournament that we've been invited to in November," Ella explained.
"They will play against the full Tongan teams, Samoan teams, the Cook Islands and all those guys so it will be pretty tough.
"We want to select the best team possible and go out there and do ourselves proud."
Ella and his brothers Mark and Gary were famous for playing an exciting brand of rugby and Glen is hoping to see more of the same this weekend.
"Hopefully there's some exciting, open rugby," the champion fullback said.
"The thing about aboriginals is that they're like the islanders in that they don't mind a bit of the physical stuff as well.
"So long as it's clean and just aggressive and we want plenty of tries scored."