It will be a long and tough road but it will be worth it for the winner of the second Napier Old Boys' Marist Invitational Sevens Tournament at Tremain Field, Park Island, in Napier today.

The first of more than 50 games will start at 8.40am and the winner could, at least theoretically, be playing in their sixth game of the day if they reach the final programmed for almost nine hours later, at 5.20pm.

At stake, for the teams, is a first prize of $2500 in the senior competition, which last night was expected to have 13 teams, with two from Wellington club Tawa withdrawing earlier in the week.

The total prize pool is almost $5000, with $400 for the winner of the colts grade, which last night had seven entries.


But for new Hawke's Bay Sevens coach Ellery Wilson, who's also organising the tournament, most at stake are the chances of young players he and co-coach and new Magpies XVs coach Mark Ozich want to propel Hawke's Bay into a new sevens era, the first step towards possible professional and international careers, and the Olympic Games.

The NOB tournament was designed to give Bay players some pre-Christmas sevens combat, ahead of the Central Region Sevens and national sevens qualifying tournament, this year in Levin on December 9. Players can play about seven tournaments during the summer, including the Bayleys National Sevens in Rotorua on January 13-14.

The Bay's annual sevens championship, historically known as the Waipawa Sevens, won't be held until February 18 but there have been some moves toward starting a regular sevens series in the region. Founded by the Waipawa rugby club almost 34 years ago, it is now staged by Central Rugby and Sports in Waipukurau.

Napier OBM won their first tournament last year, with a 43-5 win over Taranaki side Southern Sharks, who are not returning. Historic capital-city club Wellington - the "Axemen" - will be aiming to improve on their surprise semifinal defeat last year.

There will be much interest in the performances of national secondary schools champion First XV Hastings Boys' High School, whether in the school teams contesting the colts tournament or in the Hastings Rugby and Sports Club shooting for senior honours.

The school is targeting the national Condor 7s schools' tournament from November 30 to December 7, after they were beaten in the semifinals last year.