Nick Jordan leans back in the bright yellow seats that ring Wellington Regional Stadium and cracks a wide smile.
“Did I ever think that I’d see Spain playing Portugal?” he asks rhetorically before the Iberian neighbors clash in the quarter-final of the Bowl competition at the Wellington leg of the World Sevens Series yesterday.
“No. In a word,” he said.
The 42-year-old New Zealander is a self-acknowledged “sevens tragic,” having been involved in running the first Wellington tournament in the International Rugby Board’s (IRB) world sevens series in 1999-2000.
The match between Portugal and Spain, won 26-19 by the Spanish, provided a perfect backdrop to his interpretation of the intervening 13 years.
Yes, he had an inkling in 2000 that something might be able to grow out of the series, but the expansion of sevens into non-traditional rugby nations and their ability to get competitive in the last three years was something he had not quite expected.
“I love the All Blacks, but they’re going to have competition from only two or three countries [in the 15s],” Jordan said.
“In the sevens, isn’t it exciting that Canada could beat the All Blacks one day, then Kenya could beat Canada, then Hong Kong could beat Kenya? Who knows? I mean that’s what makes it exciting and a global opportunity,” he added.
Jordan’s obsession with rugby sevens started in 1999, shortly after Wellington had been granted the New Zealand leg of the IRB’s inaugural Sevens World Series.
Wellington Regional Stadium, the venue for the February 2000 event, was still being constructed and Jordan, an employee of the Wellington Rugby Union, was asked to become the tournament director.
He spent three years in the role before embarking on a career of sporting event management work around the world, but it was his passion for the shortened form of rugby that kept drawing him back to the game.
Jordan now attends at least four of the nine Sevens World Series tournaments as a radio commentator and journalist, attends other second-tier tournaments and also works as the part-time tournament director for the Coral Coast sevens in Fiji.
He attends about 20 tournaments in total around the world each year scouting talent and the growth of the game and he, like others who follow the sport intently, was looking forward to the next three years as it builds toward the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“Sevens has a really exciting opportunity with the Olympics. Not only 2016, but 2020, and for men and women,” he added. “Clearly the results we saw [in Wellington] reflected the emphasis [in development] that has gone on in a number of countries.”
Jordan said he expected Canada and the US would be major contenders in sevens in the near future and that the traditional powerhouses like New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and South Africa should not expect to walk to the gold medals in Rio.
Canada’s women’s program had been given “Own the Podium” funding from the Canadian Olympic Committee, while the US programs were being resourced by the US Olympic Committee.
“Come three years and the Olympics, who would have caught up? Who is throwing money at it now? The countries with Olympics pedigree. Britain. Australia. The US. They are putting a lot of resources into their programs,” Jordan said.