Top teams heading to Byron for sevens tournament
Rugby union diehards, from celebrated stars through to ageing warriors, have been making an October beeline for Byron Bay for the past 19 years, and this year is no exception.
A rugby sevens tournament launched tentatively in 1990 has grown to become the largest in Australia outside the metropolitan areas, and this October 17 and 18 it's on again, the Byron Bay Sevens, two days of spectacular football catering to 32 men's and 16 women's teams.
There will be teams from Fiji, New Zealand, Sunnybank, Brisbane Souths, Brisbane Fiji, Eastwood, Sydney Norths and Gold Coast Breakers.
Women's team include New Zealand Napier, Canberra Uni, Sydney Uni, Newcastle Uni and a team from the Defence Force from Papua New Guinea.
Dual international Michael O'Connor will be there watching for the future of the Australian Rugby 7s team.
The free-wheeling nature of the weekend is one which has seen some teams returning every year since the 1990 launch, like the Old Rats, made up of former Southern Cross Uni mates, who are planning a reunion this year at the Byron 7s.
Tom Mooney, one of the event's major sponsors, was also in the first team to win a premiership for Uni and is looking forward to the reunion.
The Byron Bay Sevens owes plenty to Stu and Katherine Mackell.
They kicked things off in 1990 with Kev Maher (who missed two years in the middle) and have been in there organising and planning each tournament ever since, including this year's.
The only person organisers know of to have played in all 20 years is Byron's very own Michael 'Wombat' Leece.
Competition at the Byron Bay Recreation Grounds will start at 9am on both days, with the finals on Sunday afternoon.
Kev Maher is excited about the standard of teams entered in this year's competition.
He says anyone who likes fast, free-flowing rugby should get along to the Rec Ground.