‘Pretty s***’: Caslick’s empty feeling
AUSTRALIAN sevens star Charlotte Caslick believes the Sydney Sevens is a step in the right direction for gender parity but she'd like to share prime time billing with men, saying its "pretty shit" women have to play in front of empty stadiums in the morning games.
Sydney made history by staging a "fully integrated" sevens tournament for the first time, with mens and womens playing together on the same field for all three days.
Aussie coach Tim Walsh and Kiwi star Portia Woodman called for the rest of the world to follow Sydney's lead and combine the mens and womens sevens, and World Rugby boss Brett Gosper used a timely visit to declare his backing - and World Rugby's finances - to make it happen.
But Caslick, who won player of the final and was the world's best player in 2016, believes the steps toward gender parity should include looking at women sharing the best timeslots with the men's games.
In Sydney, the women's tournament was played largely in the morning and afternoon, while the men's was played at night.
Australia's womens team played their first game at 9.40am on Saturday, as opposed to the men's first match after 5pm.
Asked about the format of playing one game on Friday, two on Saturday and three finals on Sunday, Caslick said: "It was alright, I can't say I loved it."
"I think we can still probably improve it," Caslick continued.
"I'd love to see the men and women being combined more.
"It's pretty shit when you run out at nine o'clock in the morning and no-one's turned up yet.
"I'd love to see Sydney or the rest of the tournaments try and implement more of an unanimous tournament."
Whether that is a realistic possibility from organisers World Rugby in the near future remains to be seen, however.
Rugby Australia lobbied to combine men's and women's tournaments on a single field - and succeeded - but World Rugby's resulting schedule saw the womens tournament and men's tournament effectively run as separate blocks within the three days.
By and large, womens' games were played morning and afternoon, and men were in the afternoon and evening. That was done partly for logistical reasons - to share change room facilities and ensure standard rest times between games etcetra - but also because there are separate broadcast contracts for the womens and mens world series, and even separate sponsors.
World Rugby's contract to televise the men's tournament is currently worth more, and men historically rate higher; hence them being in prime time.
There are currently only five women's tournaments in a season, and ten in the men's series.
Still, women's rugby sevens popularity is booming and World Rugby boss Brett Gosper, after watching Australia's women win in Sydney, said there is clamour for more exposure of the women's game from many influential corners.
"I think the fans want to see the women play. Certainly the sponsors are very keen, we've got a new sponsor here Capgemini that are a global sponsor that are very keen that the women are well represented.
"There's a commercial push, not just a moral desire to get the women out there, a commercial belief that it's good for business."
World Rugby's pledge of financial support will still be a critical element to more fully integrated tournaments around the globe.
Big increases in costs and only an extra day's ticket sales are currently scaring off host nations.
Rugby Australia had to move Sydney Sevens to the Australia Day weekend to make it fully integrated and paid a price, with only 55,000 attending - 20,000 down on last year.