Rugby sevens squad quietly confident of team success

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 February, 2009, 12:00am

Rugby will be favourite to walk away with the prize in the 'team only' category, but sevens captain Andrew Chambers is not taking anything for granted.

'We expected to win 12 months ago as we had a very good year, but were blindsided by the dragon dancers,' Chambers said. 'So I won't say for sure we are favourites until we win it.'

The Hong Kong sevens squad are frontrunners because they topped the public poll with the women's baseball team coming second and leading men's hockey team Shaheen third.

The biggest surprise is cricket didn't register on the public's radar, possibly highlighting the general lack of knowledge of the game and its low profile.

But on merit alone, the cricket team deserve to be right up there as they had a wonderful 2008. Not only did Tabarak Dar's team win the ACC Trophy - defeating arch-rivals the United Arab Emirates - for the first time, but they also qualified for division three in the ICC World Cricket League.

'I think we have a very good chance of winning the award,' said optimistic coach Aftab Habib. 'We had a great year, even finishing fourth in the Hong Kong Sixes, and this would be the icing on the cake.' A few years ago, cricket claimed the team award after finishing second at the ACC Trophy - which recognises the best associate member country in Asia.

Winning will, however, depend to a large extent on a 10-member judging panel. The public's voice counts for only 20 per cent of the vote, another 20 per cent belongs to the sports media with the remaining 60 per cent going to the judges.

The judging panel includes Frank Fu Hoo-kin, vice-chairman of the Elite Sports Committee of the Sports Commission; Olivia Chan Yeuk-oi, assistant director of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department; Eric Li Ka-cheung, chairman of the Hong Kong Sports Institute; Jenny Fung Ma Kit-han, chairwoman of the Paralympic Committee and Sports Association for the Physically Disabled; and Chan Tan-lui, a former table tennis star.

Chambers views the voting format cautiously after rugby was pipped by the Northern Lion Dance team (wushu) last year.

'We have achieved a lot, but who can say which of the four candidates has the biggest say and support among the community,' says Chambers.

The sevens squad are nominated for finishing second at the Rugby World Cup Sevens Asian qualifying tournament and winning the Denmark Sevens.

'Does qualifying for a World Cup count or will the community service which Shaheen does?' asked Chambers.

Shaheen swept the silverware in 2008, winning both Premier League and the knockout competition. The women's baseball team finished eighth (from eight) at the World Cup and fourth (from six team) at the Hong Kong International tournament.

'It would be great if we were to win it,' Chambers added.