When a location was being sought to become the official home of the New Zealand Rugby Sevens programme there were a few must-haves that needed to be ticked off first.

Their home base would need to be easily accessible, have an environment that allowed maximum training time, which meant climate and weather played a factor, housing availability, a facility which provided office space, a meeting room, a gymnasium and recovery area, and finally, but not surprisingly, a field.

New Zealand Rugby high-performance sevens manager Tony Philp said Mount Maunganui was recognised as the best option.

And since October 1, both the All Blacks Sevens and the Black Ferns Sevens have officially become permanent members of the Bay of Plenty community, with the programme operating out of the University of Waikato Adams Centre for High Performance.


"We did a lot of research around what we needed," Philp said.

"The Adams Centre that we're based at, the resource that that provides; the climate that allows us to train in the winter, because we're a summer sport, hopefully without too much rain and the location and the facilities and the community.

"We're certainly excited about now making it our home and contributing to the community."

The men's team has been centralised "since this time last year" and players in both teams have migrated over recent years, including Black Ferns Sevens captain Sarah Goss, who moved to the Bay from Manawatu in the first cycle leading into Rio. But Philp said October 1 marked the official date of all contracted players of both squads "living here now".

Philp says the programme consists of 20 contracted players in each team, seven management staff supporting the men's squad and a six-strong management team with the women. There are still contracts to fill but Philp says they'll be looking at the regional and national sevens to fill those places.

"As soon as basically they become a contracted player, then from now on we'll be looking to have them relocate or come to the Mount, now on top of that we've got management teams that support them as well.

"We've had three or four weeks together under the same roof and, you know, we really see that as an exciting opportunity, not only for each team but also how our two teams can operate more [cohesively] and how, on top of that, how we can really leverage off the knowledge of the building from Waikato University to Bay of Plenty rugby.

Both the men's and women's teams have already achieved major triumphs in recent months. They returned from April's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast as gold medallists and then made history as back-to-back Sevens World Cup champions in San Francisco in July.


Philp says their results have been "outstanding", but they can't get complacent and need to be focused on their goal of winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

And in order for both the All Blacks Sevens and the Black Ferns Sevens to reach their full potential they needed to have a permanent base, together.

"It's always been part of our plan, our campaign plan for Tokyo [Olympics] that we built coming out of 2016 was for our teams to centralise in order to be in the best possible shape for the games in 2020, so it's sort of just been a part of our process and plan over the last couple of years to get to this stage today of having two teams being here in the Mount."

The year 2016 was when rugby sevens debuted as an Olympic sport in Rio. The New Zealand men's team suffered a 12-7 quarter-final loss to Fiji and the women came second to Australia.

Since then, Philp says they've learned a lot such as the importance of providing a strong culture for athletes to thrive personally and professionally.

"We're pretty clear on the type of people we want to lead and be part of our programme.


"We're getting clearer and clearer on what the recipe is and we've got to adapt and change and continue to stay ahead of the game ... and we'll continue to learn in the lead up to the Olympics and obviously post the Olympics as well."

Part of being able to provide a positive working environment is to provide consistency.

Before being centralised, players would be based in their own home towns, brought together for training camps before jumping on a plane for tournaments around the world.

The benefits of a centralised programme are many. Players have routine, they are able to spend more time with loved ones and can sleep in their own beds at night. It also means teams can spend more time together on the field working on tackle techniques and defensive systems, as well as strengthening relationships.

"We really are driven to work hard for each other because there's a real genuine care for each other.

"It's really important for us to make sure we give them, everyone, time and space to reconnect with family and friends and get that balance point right."


Relocating families is also something Philp says they are mindful of, helping players through the process with employment connections for partners, networking and support.

Sevens high performance manager Tony Philp, centre, with Black Ferns Sevens teammates Niall Williams and Tyla Nathan-Wong. Photo / Andrew Warner
Sevens high performance manager Tony Philp, centre, with Black Ferns Sevens teammates Niall Williams and Tyla Nathan-Wong. Photo / Andrew Warner

As a mother of two, Black Ferns Sevens' Niall Williams says having a centralised programme means less travelling and more time at home with her family, which is important.

Fellow teammate Tyla Nathan-Wong says the warm weather in the Bay is a bonus to being able to strengthen connections with her teammates on and off the field.

Through the programme, a day in the life of a sevens player depends on the time of year.

This week, Philp says it has included gym work, on-field training, mental preparation, nutrition, personal development and a community celebration at Pāpāmoa's Gordon Spratt Reserve yesterday.

"It's important that we connect as a team but it's equally important that we give people their ability to go an connect as human beings with their friends and family. Our challenge is to continue to have really good conversations as a team around how that's going and making sure we get that balance point right."

Professional development is also a big part of that, which includes "supporting our 40 athletes to guide and encourage what they want to do post career and how to get there".


"Look after the people, the person first and then allow them to thrive in the culture to then deliver performances at the right place at the right time."

Philp says they are excited about their future in the Bay, excited about Tokyo and improving even more beyond that.

But before the Tokyo Olympics, they have to qualify.

Players are heading to Fiji for the Oceania tournament next week and after that, they will have a heavy focus on their next tournament in Dubai at the end of this month, as part of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. It will be first round for the national men's side and the women's second.

They need a top-four placing in the overall series to secure a spot at the Olympics.

But if women's results in their first round are anything to go by, taking out a 33-7 win against USA in the final match, they'll be there.