Beer, bubbles, banter, bling and Boks in lead-up to the Sevens

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 February, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong has its own unique acronyms, like FILTH: Failed In London, Try Hong Kong, which even inspired a book title. Being hit in the face with colonialism like a wet cravat in the early 1990s as a Hong Kong newbie inspired SNOB: Serious Nobodies Outside Britain. Not to forget the acronym that became a hit around Sars time, WANCHAI: Wife Away, No Children, Having Affairs Incessantly.

One of the new pre-Sevens rugby functions this year that's for women only brought to mind another Hong Kong-centric acronym, SINBAD: Single Income, No Bloke And Desperate. I realise I am being unkind. For every SINBAD in this town, there's a LOMBARD (Loads Of Money, But A Real Dork).

Rugby promoter and former player Antony Phillips, from the Amici Group, gave the lowdown on their new event that's all about boys, bubbles and bling.

'There are so many events for the boys in Hong Kong that week, we thought it was time for the ladies to have all the attention and glamour. Players from the Sevens teams are coming along to the W Hotel in Elements [in Tsim Sha Tsui] for our event. They include England, Wales, Portugal, and the West Indies. The West Indies boys have asked if they can bring the whole team to mingle with the crowd,' Phillips said.

'Getting lucky' at this event takes on a whole new meaning for rugby widows and footballers' wives-in-the-making. One will win a diamond as she sips champagne and watches 14 buff rugby players strut their stuff on the runway in underwear.

'A few lucky ladies will spend some time up close and personal with some eligible bachelors who will be auctioned off for charity,' says Phillips.

Although maverick MC Stuart MacDougall's one-liner from the Deutsche Bank Valley Long Lunch last year springs to mind - 'A fussy girl is a lonely girl' - Phillips' event has hit on a relevant point: The Sevens is no longer three days long. These days it's a week-long affair.

Diehard Sevens aficionados know that pacing yourself is the main way to survive all the events of the week. No matter how much energy you have or how much caffeine you consume, you can't go to all of them.

The Indian Recreation Club's lawns take as much of a hammering as the pitch in the stadium across the road during the Sevens with the Valley Big Top Party open to all every night after the Sevens. However, the divots begin here before the kick-off in the stadium with the 500-seat Valley Long Lunch organised by IME Events.

There have been a lot of brain cells under the bridge over the years; this year the lunch is into its 14th year.

Ignoring the economic tsunami, Deutsche Bank is making sure the Mexican waves and bread-roll throwing start early. This year, they've backed the Sevens Friday Long Lunch again. Speakers confirmed so far are Daniel Herbert, Stu Wilson and MC MacDougall.

The comedic cognoscenti will be out in full force at Carinat's 'Dine with the Legends' dinner at the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel on the same night as the women's-only event.

The banter of Sean Fitzpatrick and Christian Cullen and Jonathan Davies will go down as smoothly as the Berry Brothers & Rudd wine. David Campese will also be part of the fray, no doubt living up to his reputation of foot-in-mouth disease. 'He was my most difficult opponent on the pitch, so it will be interesting to go head to head with him on the mic,' said Fitzpatrick from London last week.

Says Carinat's Jon Phelps: 'The theme is 'The Entertainers'. Fitzy will MC the evening and put questions to the others. Alternative rugby commentator Jed Thian will also be a panellist, giving a different take on the Sevens.'

It just wouldn't be cricket if the Hong Kong Cricket Club didn't get on the bandwagon with their annual Sevens black-tie dinner. Guests include Cullen and Davies at the Aberdeen Marina Club.

If 'talk is cheap', how come listening to three people talking about rugby costs HK$3,000 a head? Because it's not often you get three former Sevens legends of the calibre of Waisale Serevi, Eric Rush and Campese together in the same room. This event is being hosted at the Island Shangri La by Glenn Ella. Everyone who attends will receive a signed jersey.

At the other end of the spectrum at under $1,000 a head is the Kowloon International Tens RugbyFest dinner at the Quarterdeck with John Bentley, Paul Wallace and Thian.

National groups get in on the act too, with the Australian Association running a team meet-and-greet cocktail party at the FCC. Boks, banter and beers go down well at the South African Society annual dinner with the team at the HKFC, usually on the same night as the Argentinians' barbecue. The Canadian and Australian Chambers of Commerce usually run a lunch during Sevens week; while Britcham runs a dinner with KPMG at the HKFC. This year, Fitzpatrick and Wallace are the guest speakers. Bentley is the MC.

The New Zealand Society annual pre-Sevens event is always the best chance to see the haka so close the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. In previous years, the Kiwi team have attended, although last year it was the Aliens from the Tens. Says president Travis Pittman: 'Kiwis are always up for a party. Whichever team turn up, this is a good enough excuse as any to have some pre-Sevens fun.'

It's not just the players who have to get into training to make the most of the Sevens, it's the guest speakers. Said former Lion and Barbarian Jason Leonard, after a week on the speaker's circuit at the 2007 Sevens: 'My body's having a great time, but my liver just wants to go home.'

The speakers and audiences get equally exhausted on the eve of the Sevens. 'Early in my public speaking career, I was given some advice,' says Thian, 'If the audience suddenly goes silent and you feel you've got them in the palm of your hand, just remember they're probably asleep.'

If eating is cheating and snoozing is losing, stockpile the zzzzz's like there's no tomorrow before we slide into to the Sevens season smorgasbord.

Happy hour

This year's Valley Long Lunch will be the: 14th