Island Breeze rugby 7s festival blows into Fraser Coast

THE Fraser Coast’s rugby 7s community is hopeful a new festival to be held in the region early next year will help grow the sport.

National chairperson of Island Breeze Rugby Plus and Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour sign the three-year sponsorship deal ahead of the inaugural Fraser Coast Rugby 7s Festival in Hervey Bay next year. PHOTO: Shaun Ryan.

The inaugural Fraser Coast Rugby 7s Festival will be held at the Hervey Bay Mariners grounds in Walkers Road on 19 February.

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Organised by Island Breeze Rugby Plus – a group of Fijians living and working on the Fraser – the event is expected to see hundreds of rugby 7s players showing off their skills.

Island Breeze national chairman Waqa Baravilala said senior men’s and women’s teams, social teams and juniors would take to the field at the Rugby Australia and Queensland Reds sanctioned event.

Mr Baravilala said social teams would be made up of Pacific Islanders employed as seasonal workers on farms in the Bundaberg and Biggenden areas.

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Speaking at the launch of the festival in Pialba yesterday, Mr Baravilala said Island Breeze players had toured all across Australia to participate in rugby 7s tournaments but had never put on their own.

“We have played all across Australia but have never put on a festival like this. I think the Fraser Coast could become the home of rugby 7s.”

He said there was a lot of talent among junior players in the region.

The Fraser Coast Regional Council has entered into a three-year sponsorship deal to help make the tournament become a reality.

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Mayor George Seymour said rugby 7s was an international and Olympic sport and that there was scope for the fast-paced format of the game to grow in the build-up to the 2032 Olympics in Queensland.

Cr Seymour said Council wanted to help facilitate sports in the region to promote a healthy lifestyle within the community.

With hundreds of players, their supporters and team managers expected to head to the Fraser Coast for the event, the economic impact on the local hospitality industry cannot be ignored.

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Mr Baravilala said there was already a lot of interest in the festival.

Meanwhile, Queensland Reds rugby services manager Connor Ellis said the festival would add to an already busy state rugby 7s calendar.

“Hopefully it tops off a great season of rugby 7s and hopefully we can uncover some local talent who will go on to play for Australia at the Olympics, maybe even in Brisbane in 2032,” Mr Ellis said.

Mr Baravilala thanked the sponsors who had already put their hands up to help sponsor the event.

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Another important element of the festival for Island Breeze is the opportunity to give back to the community.

Mr Baravilala said teams had previously donated money won at previous tournaments to help cover medical costs for people within the community.

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