NEWCASTLE lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes believes the “party atmosphere” of an international rugby sevens tournament would be a hit with Hunter sports fans and pointed to the successful Newcastle 500 Supercars event as an example.
The Sydney Sevens has a year remaining on a four-year contract between Rugby Australia and Destinations NSW. But under the $2 billion stadium plan for Sydney, Allianz Stadium will be demolished later this year and won’t be available to host the three-day event, which is part of the World Series.
Cr Nelmes confirmed that Newcastle council has been involved in “early discussions” about hosting the event, which features 14 national teams in men and women divisions.
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“Our city has certainly proved it can host major sporting events with the extraordinary success of the inaugural Newcastle 500 Supercars event,” Cr Nelmes said.
“More than 192,000 people flocked to the city over three days, helping put on an event notable for incredible action, stunning scenery and the impeccable behaviour of fans.
“I've no doubt the men's and women's sevens events would also excite local sporting fans.”
In a first, Australia won the men and women divisions at Allianz Stadium over the Australia Day weekend, which attracted more than 54,000 fans over three days.
McDonald Jones Stadium has a capacity of 33,000 and the Hunter region has a strong rugby history.
A crowd of 20,000 braved cyclonic conditions mid-week to watch Scotland beat the Wallabies 12-6 in 2012.
A similar number was on hand in 2013 for the British Lions’ 64-0 win over Combined Country in 2013
Since then, Newcastle has successfully hosted an ANZAC rugby league test match, the Asian Football Cup and a women’s football international.
“An Australian record crowd of 17,000 people watched the Westfield Matildas play Brazil last September, and I believe the fun, party atmosphere of sevens would appeal to Hunter sports fans,” Nelmes said.
Rugby Australia hope to have a venue “locked in” by the end of this month.
“We are well into the process of reviewing options for the host venue of the 2019 HSBC Sydney Sevens,” a Rugby Australia spokesman said.
“Newcastle is being explored as part of this process, along with a number of other possible locations.”
“Ultimately the venue for next year’s tournament will be decided in agreement by the tournament and series controllers (World Rugby), Rugby Australia and Government.
“There are several factors being considered, including commercial requirements and the capacity to accommodate up to 28 teams, as well as officials and supporters in the host location.”