How they shape up at the top
The First Division Clubs
Mama Mia! The defending champions will miss prolific try-scorer Aaron Kimura, the architect of many a victory last season. The outstanding flyhalf has landed a professional contract in the Italian First Division. Add to this the loss of brilliant Korean international scrumhalf Lee Myung-guen and perhaps HKCC Aberdeen might struggle to link up between the forwards and backs. ?It is a big hole to fill, especially the loss of Aaron (Kimura) who made such a huge impact in his first season. But I?m quietly confident that we have the replacements. I?m expecting a lot from our new scrumhalf Kane Jury from Nelson Bays and flyhalf Simon Hempel, a former Australian Universities representative,? says coach
Out: Lee Myung-guen, Kahu Marfell, Aaron Kimura, Chan Ka-man, Ken Sawers, Tam King, Deng Ying-ling and Zhou Kei.
In: Wayne Whitney (from Nomads), Simon Hempel (Australia), Pale Touati (New Zealand), Kane Jury (Nelson Bays, NZ), Simon Leung, Charlie Randall.
After finishing second last season, Kowloon will be aiming to go one better. As usual the cornerstone of their campaign will be the mighty ?Loon pack with evergreen Leighton Duley and new Hong Kong international Leung Ming-hong leading the way in the front row. Specialist lock James Burbidge-King is out with a knee injury and will be missed. Behind the scrum, Kowloon will miss reliable flyhalf Bruce Aitchison, but new captain Adam Hay is confident there is plenty of talent to capitalise on the hard work of the forwards. ?I?m Hong Kong?s only on-field spectator,? says 46-year-old Duley. ?I suspect I will be a bench-warmer and hopefully a super-sub. But my presence is dictated by the fact there is always a shortage of front-rowers. I?m phasing out my retirement.?
Out: Misiluni Moanunu, Eddie Leiataua, Murray Roeske, Bruce Aitchison, Adam Karin, Tony Woods
In: Ashley Bond, Harry Hughes, Brandon Huang, Jay Tainui, Mark Goosen
The club turns 30 this season, and the former champions will be hoping to celebrate in style by winning the title. The retirements of Lachlin Miller and Brian O?Hara and the defection of Pete Spizziri to arch-rivals Football Club has resulted in Valley?s three imports this season all being forwards. ?We needed to address the problems we faced in the tight five and I feel we have done that. There are a lot of new faces in the side and our first task will be to gel together and generate a good spirit that
can flow down to our other sides,? says captain Justin Temara.
Out: Paul Gaffney, Lachlin Miller, Pete Spizzirri, Brian O?Hara, Alex Telea, Hemi Pou, Jeremy Meyer.
In: John Galo (Hawkes Bay), Nick Hewson (Waikato), Jack Bennett (Wales).
CBRE Hong Kong Football Club
There was nothing much to shout about for the boys in blue and white last season. But with former national coach Terry Hart joining the think-tank of Rodney McIntosh and Graham Black, and a number of new faces joining from DeA Tigers, CBRE Club will be hoping to regain the limelight this season. ?I have got a roaming role in the club,? says Hart. ?I have done some scrummaging work with the firsts and it is nice to be back again. But it will be up to Roddy [McIntosh] if I?m to be involved more.? Club, who are traditionally a forward-powered team, are bound to use his experience as they bid to regain the title.
Out: Paul Dingley, Mick Russell, Warren Warner
In: Pete Spizzirri, Rob Naylor, Andrew Chambers, Ricky Cheuk, James Shum
It will be another season of rebuilding after a mass exodus of players, including Hong Kong internationals Rob Naylor and Andrew Chambers. But this will give regular First Division rugby experience to young Chinese Fan Shunlei, Kwok Ka-chun, Tsang Hing-hung and Lai Yu-pang, all of whom had a taste of international rugby last season. ?We have lost a lot of players, but I?m still confident we can challenge for the title,? says Nigel Clarke, DeA Tigers coach.
Out: Andy O?Brien, Rob Naylor, Andrew Chambers, Ricky Cheuk, Laurence Denvir, Jay Tainui, Bib Bin Huang, Lee Cheuk-yin, Ben Kitzis, Gavin Jayasekera, Junior Su?a, Stirling Richmond, John Cocker, Brett Williams
In: Etu Vakaudekoro, Pita Rawaibula, Kini Radaveta (all from Fiji)
GENERALI CAUSEWAY BAY
They finished bottom of the bunch in their First Division debut last season, but are better prepared and hopefully the presence of Junior Su?a will add some much-needed experience up front. ?We are looking forward to our second season and want to learn more and be more competitive. The most important thing for us is to really enjoy ourselves again,? says coach Rambo Leung.
Out: Philip Kim, Toby Um, Sean Kim, Carl Kim
In: Junior Su?a, Chan Ka-man, Wong Feng, Justin Thirwell
As always, they will be fit and disciplined. The experience of having played in the local league for the past couple of seasons will have benefited the Guangdong-based side greatly. But the periodic posting and retirement of key players will continue to see them struggle to find consistency. ?Our strength will lie in the forwards and we will be able to put other sides under pressure, and hopefully
from these mistakes tries will result. Our goal is to finish better than last season, when we were sixth in the standings,? says coach Liu Yong.
CBRE Club Dragons will join the seven teams in the first round before dropping down to the Second Division. The teams will then complete a second round to decide the league winners. Their final placings will also determine the seedings for the Grand Championship, which returns after a break of a year.