Two years ago, Willis proposed his wife Kavitha at the tournament in which he officiated, and last year they got married in Rarotonga after he refereed in his sixth Raro Sevens tournament.
“Probably for me personally, the highlight was when I proposed to my wife in front of the entire stadium – where else in the world could you do this at an International Sevens event? It was amazing,” said Willis, who is returning to take charge at the tournament once again this year.
“Then we were married last year after I refereed at the Sevens again.”
The Cook Islands Rugby Referees Association in conjunction with the Cook Islands Rugby Union and the tournament organisers invites Willis and his colleagues from Auckland Rugby Referees to the Sevens each year.
Willis brings a wealth of experience to the tournament, having refereed at some of the top international events in the past. He officiated at the tens tournament in Dubai, Hong Kong, Samoa and Tonga as well as in the premier grade 15s competition in Auckland during the regular season.
But Willis said the Raro Sevens was always unique, be it for its competitiveness or the fanfare.
“Without question we love Raro Sevens. The tournament has a special quality about it that can only be found in Rarotonga,” Willis said.
“There are too many to highlights to pick just one. The entire tournament itself is a highlight from the players involved to our fellow match officials to the team spirit that exists to the competiveness that comes out from the teams that have a burning desire to do well.
“And then there are the fans. Nothing quite compares to the fans, especially the Tabusoro supporters. We are looking forward to hearing them from the stands again this year.
“For us, it’s like coming home.”
Willis said with some new and old teams back in the mix, he expects another exciting tournament this year.
He said the standard was getting better each year, and credits the dedication of the players and coaches, who do so much work to ensure a spectacular event.
“It's not surprising that Sevens has really hit the international scene now as it continues to be a crowd pleaser with its fast action and plenty of tries,” Willis said.
“This year looks like it’s going to be a huge success again with more overseas players and teams involved than ever.
“It’s a truly a privilege to be coming again this year and to officiate at the Raro International Sevens. I know that I speak for all the match officials involved when I say we can’t wait to be in Rarotonga.
“May the best teams win and on behalf of all the match officials, we wish all players, coaches, teams and supporters a very safe and enjoyable tournament.”