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Official Review by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The growth of rugby sevens (seven-a-side) exploded following the announcement that the condensed version of rugby union would be added to the Summer Olympic program at Rio 2016. The premiere international circuit is the World Rugby Sevens Series, a total of ten separate tournaments played in ten different countries. Sevens has predicated the growth of rugby in non-traditional markets including the US and Kenya. Outside of the World Series, a number of standalone tournaments also take place around the world, including a separate Sevens World Cup; the 2018 version of which will be played in the Bay Area of California, including AT&T Park in San Francisco and Avaya Park in San Jose.
Billed as the highest-quality sevens tournament in Australia outside of the World Rugby program, the Central Coast Sevens began in 2009 and has since morphed into a three-day festival comprising men's, women's and youth competitions. Competing teams are drawn from as far away as North America, but more commonly include Australian National Teams, state teams, and district clubs from across Australia, as well as a strong Pacific Islands contingent - particularly Fiji. This gives the event an international flavour, attracting fans from far and wide.
The main field at Wyong is known as Morry Breen Oval, and is estimated to have a capacity of 8,000 spectators. The complex is owned by the adjacent Wyong Rugby League Club, the Wyong Roos, who in addition to being one of the strongest local clubs on the Central Coast, also compete in the second-tier NSW Cup, and act as a "reserve grade" for the Sydney Roosters. Wyong is the oldest such club in the area, with a history dating back to 1910, though they didn't move to their current location until 1973. Wyong is one of the better suburban facilities on the coast, and supplements Central Coast Stadium at Gosford nicely.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There's a surprising variety of food options available at Wyong, mostly through individual vendors setting up stands and food trucks between the two fields. Some of the choices include baked potatoes with your choice of toppings ($8), curry puffs and spring rolls ($2 each or three for $5), pulled pork subs ($12), the very popular chili cheese fries ($12), and sausage or steak sandwiches ($3.50/$5.50). There are also plenty of drinks available, including a Boost Juice stand as well as canned soft drinks ($2) and beer ($4.50). In general, the quality is great and the prices very reasonable. Take your pick and enjoy!
There are two fields at Wyong used for the Sevens tournament. The main ground is to the north and features a covered terraced grandstand with seating for around one thousand. The remainder of the field is surrounded by grassy areas with hills on either sideline. The comfort level is obviously relative in this case, but not an issue. The stand offers a shaded area, or you can bring a blanket and stretch out in the sun while you soak in the atmosphere. Yes, this is a rugby union tournament being played at a rugby league venue - a largely irrelevant anomaly as the open spaces and two field set-up lend themselves perfectly to the festival atmosphere.
Located around ninety minutes' drive from Sydney, the Central Coast region lies north of the Hawkesbury River and south of Newcastle. The southern portion of the region is more heavily developed and tourist centric, while the northern end (where Wyong is located) remains more natural and is less densely populated. The Wyong area is dominated by the Tuggerah Lakes system and the Pacific coastline, which stretches north from The Entrance. The broader region is worth exploring if you have the opportunity, as the coast has much more to offer than what can be found in the immediate vicinity.
The area surrounding the Wyong Rugby League Club is largely residential, save for the club itself, which boasts bars, entertainment, and a restaurant specialising in Asian cuisine. The nearest commercial retail centre is close by at Lake Haven, which has outlets for most of the major fast food corporations. In an easterly direction you will find the Wallarah Bay Recreation Club (40 Wallarah Rd, Gorokan), which is also owned by the Wyong Leagues Group.
The suburb of Toukley is several kilometres further down the road, on the shores of Tuggerah Lake to the south and Budgewoi Lake to the north. In Toukley you will find a range of cafes and small restaurants along the main strip, with the Beachcomber Hotel (200 Main Rd, Toukley) a good stop for a feed and a drink. Known locally as "The Beachie," the venue is quite popular and also has accommodation.
In fact, the local area is blessed with numerous budget accommodation options, including the Lake Haven Motel, Wallarah Bay Motel, Toukley Motel, Toukley Motor Inn, and Bridge View Motel.
The Sevens attract a great mix of fans, making for a unique and fun family day out. All good play is recognised by the crowd, although the Fijian teams seem to especially endear themselves to the fans - not unusual given their history and style, built over many years of tradition in Sevens. The crowd is relaxed and good natured; parents watch the play while their kids run around the grass playing their own games.
The Central Coast region is serviced by the M1 Motorway, which is a major transport link between Sydney and Newcastle. Wyong Leagues Club is roughly ten minutes east of the Warnervale interchange. The Club has a car park on site, otherwise there is plenty of street parking located within a short walk of the grounds. The train line mirrors the road north, with the closest stations being Warnervale and Wyong. While neither are within walking distance, Wyong is probably the better option as more trains stop there, and you can then catch a bus up to Kanwal (about thirty minutes ride). The grounds themselves are spacious and easy to manoeuvre around.
At only $15 per adult for a full day of top quality rugby, a trip here is a bargain. The food and drinks are fairly priced, and there is a fantastic family atmosphere; you would be hard pressed to find better value than this one.
Fans get a free program, and one of the Fijian teams performs a traditional dance with singing, known as a Meke (see a video of it here):
The Central Coast Sevens is a very impressive event, built from the ground up to become a top-class tournament. The suburban location helps create a laid back and fun occasion, perfect for families and people of all ages. Enjoy a great value weekend on the Central Coast and see some great running rugby!
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57 Wallarah Rd
Gorokan, NSW 2263
236 Main Rd
Toukley, NSW 2263
+61 2 4396 5666
200 Main Rd
Toukley, NSW 2263
+61 1800 621 696
156 Wallarah Rd
Gorokan, NSW 2263
+61 2 4393 2224