Hong Kong Sevens

Wong on cloud nine after fairy-tale return from shoulder injury

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 March, 2009, 12:00am

Scrumhalf Jeff Wong Chun-kui thought someone was pulling his leg when he received a text message on his new mobile which read, 'Congratulations Jeff! You have been selected for the Rugby World Cup Sevens'.

The SMS was claimed to have been sent by Hong Kong coach Rodney McIntosh.

Wong, who had given up hope of making a fairy-tale comeback into the sevens squad, was stunned at the last-minute call-up as he thought the 12-man squad had already picked itself and that the final selection trials was a mere formality.

'I knew the squad was being picked that day [February 19] after a trial run,' Wong said. 'But as I hadn't been part of the process, as it was felt I hadn't quite recovered from an operation on my left shoulder, I thought one of my friends was having fun with me.'

The 23-year-old added: 'But then I realised it was the real thing. I was overwhelmed. I couldn't believe it.

'I hadn't been part of the build-up and was not in the training squad. To get called up at the last minute is just a dream.'

The InProjects Kowloon scrumhalf had missed out on the training/tournament trips to Darwin and Wellington in January and February. McIntosh had stated that contenders had to put their hands up at these two events to be considered for selection to Dubai.

'I was hungry to get back into the sevens squad, but I thought I had missed my chance and decided to just concentrate on playing well for my club,' Wong said.

'I started to enjoy my rugby and play well. I think putting in decent performances week in, week out, helped my case.'

While the sevens squad globe-trotted, Wong kept his nose to the grindstone at home. But it was two sterling performances for the Hong Kong 'A' team against Taiwan this month - in 15s - which earned him the respect of head coach Dai Rees, and ultimately a last-minute comeback.

When Wong runs out at 'The Sevens' stadium in Dubai on Wednesday, it will have been two years since he last wore the Hong Kong jersey.

'The last time I played for the national team was at the 2007 Hong Kong Sevens. That was my second Sevens. I had also played for Hong Kong at the 2006 Asian Games in Dubai. Everything was going well, until I got injured,' Wong said.

In October 2007, Wong was turning out for Hong Kong at the Singapore Cricket Club Sevens when he dislocated his left shoulder in a tackle.

Most dislocations are not career-threatening, but this was the second time he had dislocated the same shoulder.

'It was quite serious and I knew I had to go in for an operation to repair the damage. I did the operation a few weeks later, but I was ruled out of rugby for the rest of the season.'

The rehabilitative road back was long and hard for Wong, who learned the finer points of the game while being boarded for seven years at Royal School Dungannon in Northern Ireland, followed by three years at Queens University, Belfast.

'It was very hard being injured. The biggest thing is you lose your confidence. Even when I was back fully fit, I was a bit behind the pace and I knew I had to get my confidence back quickly,' he said.

It didn't take long for the scrumhalf to get his poise and assurance back. He started playing for Kowloon at the start of this season - last November - and has been an integral part of the side.

But the selectors still felt he needed more time and overlooked him when the preliminary squad was named last month for the training camps in Darwin and Wellington.

'I had the opportunity to go to Darwin, but due to work commitments - I'm an IT trader - I couldn't make it. I thought that had put paid to my World Cup hopes.

'It is just incredible I'm going to Dubai. Last week I was resigned to the fact I would miss out on my first World Cup, but now I'm back with the boys,' added an elated Wong.

Recovery period
A dislocated shoulder proved a sharp setback to Jeff Wong's career
Months the scrumhalf was out of action with his injury: 13