THE NSW Rugby Union has backed the Kiama Sevens' handling of a dispute involving an affiliate of defending champions Box Hill ahead of this weekend's tournament.
Box Hill claimed the $11,000 prize in the men's premier division last year - the first Victorian team to do so - and had hoped to defend their crown this season.
However, their nomination received by tournament directors on November 30 came too late to gain entry into the competition with all 16 spots in the men's premier division filled.
They were placed on a waiting list but ultimately did not gain entry into the competition, something club director of rugby Jack Goodman accepted.
"We were little bit late getting our application in, I thought there could have been a bit more leniency considering we were the defending champions," Goodman said.
"I kept going back to the administrators asking if anything had opened up, I emailed every month, sometimes I got a response, sometimes I didn't but that's just the way it is.
"I understand where the administrators are coming from. They've got an application window because they've got to get all the planning done to ensure they run a successful event.
"I'm disappointed but I absolutely understand where they're coming from. They've got an application window and that's the way it is."
Box Hill's team includes players also associated with Island Breeze, a community church group that regularly competes in other tournaments - most recently the Lake Macquarie 7s.
It's understood players associated with Island Breeze have arrived in Australia from Fiji in anticipation of playing in the tournament.
The Kiama Sevens entry criteria forbids representative, composite or international sides from competing, while all players must also be registered with Rugby Australia.
Goodman stressed they are two separate teams and that all players representing Box Hill met that criteria last year and would have again if granted entry this year.
"All players that played last year and were going to play this year were Box Hill registered players," he said.
"We have an affiliation with Island Breeze, they bring under-privileged kids out from Fiji and we put them on scholarships, they do community work, education as well as playing with our club.
"They've won tournaments as Island Breeze but, when they play in these registered comps, they play under the Box Hill banner and for the Box Hill club.
"They're registered with our club and they play for us during the normal rugby season."
The Box Hill club made no further complaints and the matter appeared cut and dried until an local associate of Island Breeze took the extraordinary step of contacting Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba this week.
Ms Saliba said she was following up on the concern of a constituent when she contacted tournament organisers.
"I was acting on behalf of a Shellharbour resident who contacted me in regards to a Fiji team that arrived here in Australia believing they were competing in the tournament," Saliba said.
"I certainly felt it wasn't fair a team had come all the way from Fiji to then find out that they're only on standby so I rang the organiser. He told me they didn't get it in on time and some of their players weren't registered correctly.
"I made the representation, he gave me the message and I passed it back on to the constituent. That was the extent of my involvement."
Contact was also made with Rugby Australia and the NSWRU, with tournament director Mark Bryant left fielding calls from both bodies seeking to clarify the situation. It's understood both are comfortable with the process the committee followed.
"I received a call from the Mayor of Shellharbour I haven't seen her at the Kiama 7s before but she seems to have taken an interest in it which is fantastic," Bryant said.
"I also received a phone call from Rugby Australia asking what was going on and I explained the process. The 16 positions for the main competition were filled.
"Teams then go on standby and Box Hill is a standby nomination. There was no nomination from Island Breeze. Island Breeze is a composite side and we don't take international, representative or composite sides.
"At the end of the day we have 44 teams nominated, paid up, who are very much looking forward to the competition."