MARY JO DOWSETT AND SAKARA BELL
This weekend sees Beach Rugby Australia kick off their second International Beach Rugby Festival at the Gold Coast’s Kirra Beach.
The three-day festival, which runs from September 6 to 8, will attract players at all levels and will also feature appearances by some of rugby’s greats, including international league and union great Lote Tuqiri, and All Black and Hurricanes legend Christian Cullen.
Lote Tuqiri and Christian Cullen are the official ambassadors of the festival and will also be acting as team captains for Friday’s special charity event.
The charity event will include a game between opposing all-star teams the Aussie Dingoes and the Pacific Nations, as well as a BBQ buffet lunch, entertainment, and raffles and auctions to raise money for Smart Pups assistance dogs.
Lote Tuqiri will captain the Aussie Dingoes team, while Mark Cullen will the captain the Pacific Nations team, which will be made up of past Australian Wallabies players as well as some former Samoan, Fijian and New Zealand players.
Beach Rugby Australia director Peter Hickey said it was great to have rugby legends involved in the event.
“Both players are great role models to the game as they both demonstrate it is an attractive off-season game for both league and union,” Mr Hickey said.
“Tuqiri is a Fijian-Australian former professional dual-code rugby footballer who last played for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the NRL,” he said.
“He represented Australia in both rugby league and rugby union, and Fiji in rugby league, so he covers our DNA; no scrumbs and no line outs.”
Rugby union’s Mark Cullen, who has played rugby union for New Zealand in both Ireland and the USA, will also take part in the event.
Mr Cullen said he was excited that the Gold Coast was holding its second International Beach Rugby Festival.
“What better way to have it than right here on our door step; a beautiful place to play and a beautiful game,” Mr Cullen said.
Mr Hickey said this year’s International Beach Rugby Festival would once again focus on showcasing the unique sport of beach rugby, which fuses aspects of union, league and touch.
Teams in the competition will play with five players per side and up to five substitute players per team.
Each half of the game lasts for just five minutes with a one-minute break between halves, which means play is very fast-paced and players take no prisoners.
“Basically, its beach rugby, but it’s not the game you know, it’s a little bit different to normal rugby, there’s no scrum, there’s no line outs, it’s on a 30m by 25m field and it’s five minutes each way with a one-minute break,” Mr Hickey said.
He said the festival offered a range of exciting features, including live entertainment and a fully licenced beach bar.
“It’s proved to be a lot of fun and it’s very entertaining for the crowd as well,” Mr Hickey said.
“We have bleachers, grandstands and a beach bar with live entertainment, the whole thing is very entertaining,” he said.
The festival encourages players of all ages and levels to get involved, with 30 teams taking part in the competition, including open men’s elite, men’s social, masters (over 35s), colts men’s (under 21), youth men’s (under 17), open women’s, colts women’s (under 21) and youth women’s (under 17).
“You’ve got the open men, which is very extreme, it’s pretty strenuous and tough,” Mr Hickey said.
“But then you’ve got the under 17 females, where its like watching jet fires going across the sand, so it’s very entertaining for all levels and all divisions, male and female,” he said.
Under 17s Surfers Paradise player Grace Baker will be joining a team in the competition for the second year.
Ms Baker said the event provided the opportunity to strengthen team relationships and just have fun.
“I decided to sign up because the game itself is just really fun to play and to be involved in,” she said.
“I played last year and really enjoyed the day.”
“I also joined to have fun with my team mates and to build stronger team relationships with them, because I play with most of them for clubs, reps and university level, and I think just playing this would connect us more,” Ms Baker said.
This weekend will be Alani Sullivan’s first beach rugby experience, as she plays alongside Ms Baker in the Under 17s team.
“I signed up for beach rugby this year through word of mouth from a friend… I have never played beach rugby but I am excited to participate and experience a different style of rugby,” Ms Sullivan said.
“I hope to see the beach rugby festival develop and become more popular in the future, as it is a great opportunity to get involved in a high intensity sport offered to both males and females,” she said.
The festival kicks off at 12pm on Friday with the charity game between the Aussie Dingoes and the Pacific Nations.
Tickets to the charity event cost $59 per person, which includes game entry, buffet lunch and live entertainment.
For more information about the International Beach Rugby Festival or to book tickets for the charity event, visit Beach Rugby Australia’s website.