Coach’s Corner

Get behind our boys to make this year ‘extra special’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 4:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 December, 2015, 1:21pm

Firstly, a belated kung hei fat choi to everyone! Now I have to ask, what on earth is going on with the powers that be in Hong Kong television circles? The otherwise fantastic long holiday weekend was ruined for me and many others by the discovery that our subscriptions to Setanta, by way of Now TV, no longer covers the Six Nations Championship. Quite unbelievable.

Well, TV rant over, it’s that time of the year and the Six Nations kicked off with a mixed bag of:

  • Indifferent performances – Wales at home to Italy, England’s first half in France.
  • Exciting and unpredictable performances – the second half of that Stade de France game.
  • Clinical performances – Ireland’s fine win against Scotland.

A very interesting start with little indication of a firm favourite after the opening weekend; France and Ireland are bubbling to the top, with France taking the edge having won four of their Six Nations titles in the year following a Lions Tour.

Ireland seem to have unfinished business – fuelled by the ever-lasting hurt of Warren Gatland’s Lions selections (omitting Irish legend Brian O’Driscoll) for the final test in Australia. The Ireland-Wales game is going to be a cracker and not a place for the faint hearted!

And Wales? There seems too much distraction with all that off-the-field political manoeuvring to imagine that they could win a third consecutive Six Nations title.

Anyway, with the “red packets” still being handed out and the Six Nations under way, it can mean only one thing … Sevens fever is about to hit Hong Kong! So what’s coming up on the calendar for local fans?

  • Meetings over a beer or wine to decide the fancy dress theme.
  • Trips to the tailors in Shenzhen.
  • Calls from friends and families looking for a spare room.
  • Emails from mates who have booked flights and accommodation while thinking tickets were the last thing they needed to worry about.
  • Emails from “friends” from yesteryear who have recently discovered you live in Hong Kong and MUST BE ABLE TO GET TICKETS.
  • And of course … planning your own itinerary for three days of rugby and, er, lubrication.

For the Hong Kong team this year it’s going to be a very new look – with a new national coach in Gareth Baber and the launch of a new playing kit – for one of team Hong Kong’s biggest tournaments in recent years.

With Hong Kong’s recent success at the Darwin Sevens and all the core players now full-time at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, we have a real chance of securing a spot on the HSBC Sevens World Series for the 2014/15 season.

Everyone involved with the team is looking forward to the qualifier pool draw on February 11 and finding out our opponents for the first two days – but as we all know it is day three that really counts!

As players and management we all treasure the special support for Hong Kong provided by all the fans at the stadium. In 2012 we entered day three undefeated in our pool and were ranked No 1 for the knockout stages.

Who else but Japan would be waiting for us in the quarter final, setting the stage for one of the best and most emotional performances by a Hong Kong team in recent years. In the opening minute of the game our gentle-but-spectacular Keith Robertson was dispatched from the field for a “spear tackle” and the rest is history!

The next 16 minutes were to take the fans’ relationship with the Hong Kong team to another level as a six-man Hong Kong side held their northern Asian rivals – even taking the lead early in the second half – before Japan levelled the score with only minutes to go.

With the final play Hong Kong were held up two metres out, preventing a fairy tale ending in normal time. Extra-time finally proved too much for our six men on the park, with Japan securing the win two minutes into over-time. It was heart-breaking for everyone involved – particularly young Robertson, who had played every minute of the tournament and was left standing next to me in the technical zone!

As I can now reflect it was an amazing game, not just because of the fantastic performance on the field, but because of the special connection between the Hong Kong players and the tens of thousands of fans around the stadium. Long may that connection be special and long may it continue.

I would like to wish all of Hong Kong’s supporters a prosperous, happy and hearty Year of the Horse and say, “see you at the Sevens”. Please help make 2014 extra special and cheer the team on as we try to move two steps further than 2012!