Forty Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU)
athletes have been inducted into the Union’s first ever Elite
Rugby Sevens athletes programme at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.
The HKRFU became the first Hong Kong team sport
inducted into the Sports Institute in April 2013. The intervening
months have seen the HKRFU select its inductees while several
employed athletes have been in discussion with their employers to
obtain sabbaticals to pursue their dreams of becoming full-time
professional rugby athletes.
The forty-member HKRFU squad at the Hong Kong
Sports Institute (HKSI) comprises 14 full-time men’s rugby sevens
athletes and eight part-time men’s athletes. Of the 18 female athletes, 11 are full-time and seven are part-time. Both the Hong
Kong men’s and women’s sevens captains, Jamie Hood and Royce Chan
Leong Sze, have joined the HKSI programme on a full-time basis.
The men’s list is a who’s who of HKRFU National Sevens
squad members with the full-time intake featuring Jamie Hood,
Rowan Varty, Salom Yiu Kam Shing, Alex McQueen, Tom McQueen, Nick Hewson, Lee Jones, Ben Rimene, Max Woodward, Raef Morrison, Josh
Peters, Adam Rolston, Chris Maize and Jack Capon – all of whom
have represented Hong Kong at senior sevens squad level in the
The men’s part-time athletes include
Anthony Haynes, Simon Leung Ho Yam, Kwok Ka Chun, Tsang Hing Hung,
Fan Shun Kei, Adam Raby, Cado Lee and Keith Robertson.
“The players’ employers have been very supportive of our aims
and objectives,” said Dai Rees, HKRFU Head of Technical
Development and Performance, noting that several of the players
have been granted sabbaticals for pursuing their rugby dreams –
including the drive to qualify for rugby sevens’ debut at the 2016
Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
women’s intake sees sevens regulars Royce Chan, Christy Cheng Ka
Chi, Cheng Tsz Ting, Christine Gordon, Colleen Tjosvold, Amelie
Seure, Lai Pou Fan, Lindsay Varty, Natasha Olson-Thorne, Rose Fong Siu-Lan and Sham Wai Sum in the full-time athlete programme. Emmy
Chan Hoi Ping, Daniella Means, Ivy Kwong Sau Yan, Melody Li Nim
Yan, Nam Ka Man, Aggie Poon Pak Yan and Yuen Lok Yee are enrolled
on a part-time basis.
Rowan and Lindsay Varty and
Tom and Alex McQueen are all enrolled on a full-time basis,
becoming the first full-time professional rugby athlete siblings
in Hong Kong Rugby history.
Solicitor and former
Men’s Sevens captain Rowan Varty has put his legal career on hold
to pursue his dream of representing Hong Kong in the Olympics.
Varty commented on joining the HKSI saying, “I had
just finished my two-year training period at Tanner DeWitt. The
expiration of my training period coincided with the establishment
of the HKSI programme and Tanner DeWitt was very accommodating in
allowing me to transition to a part-time basis.
“It could have been quite a difficult decision for me, but it was
made very easy by Tanner DeWitt, who have allowed me to carry on
part-time. It wasn’t a tough decision at the end but I’m glad that
I made it.
“I have spent the whole of my adult life
playing for this team and I wasn't about to give up when we really
made the push for full-time status. I think this is my 10th year
with the team and this has been the first time we really committed
as a team to going full-time,” Varty added.
already seen marked improvement in the team through the HKSI
“It is definitely the right move for us
to join the HKSI. It is the only way that we could have pushed on
and improved. As much as we like to think that we were getting the
most out of being part-time and treating the game with a
professional approach, we are miles ahead of where we were six
months ago, simply because of being full-time.
a Sevens team we are probably now up there amongst the top handful
of teams in terms of what facilities we have at our disposal. I
think we must be in the top two or three teams in the world in
terms of what we have available. The facilities at the Sports
Institute are unbelievable,” said Varty.
Hong Kong rugby athletes at the HKSI will now receive special
training and financial support to enhance their competitiveness on
the international stage. The HKSI Rugby Sevens programme is
structured along an initial four-year term with a review after two
years with success contingent on the teams’ meeting or exceeding
their competitive performance targets.
elite sport at the HKSI allows us to create a more complete
framework for development in local rugby. The support of the HKSI
reinforces and adds value to our existing comprehensive
development programmes at the HKRFU while the funding allocated
for sevens will free up financial resources that can be devoted to
supporting our fifteen-aside programme for men and women and to
nurturing and developing talented junior athletes,” said Dai Rees.
The professional support provided to Hong Kong’s
elite rugby sevens athletes will help Hong Kong close the gap on
their international opposition, most of which at the elite end are also full-time rugby athletes, with an ultimate goal of
representing Asia at the 2016 Games in Brazil.
short-term, the athletes will be focusing on the HSBC Sevens World
Series qualification tournament which will be held at
Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
qualified for the tournament by virtue of its finish in the top
two in Asia from the 2013 HSBC Asian Sevens Series, finishing as
runners-up to Japan. Hong Kong will now participate in the 12-team
international qualifier, (two teams from each of the International
Rugby Board’s six international regions). The winner of the HSBC
SWS qualifier will earn automatic qualification as a core team on
the 2014/15 HSBC Sevens World Series.
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