Nine standouts join Rugby Hall of Fame as HKRU names end-of-season award winners
The Hong Kong Rugby Union has added nine new members to its Rugby Hall of Fame and announced the season’s top performers from the local leagues.
Societe Generale Valley swept the domestic coaching awards for a second year running with Jack Isaac and Chris Garvey named men’s and women’s Premiership coaches of the year, while Sabre Kowloon number eight Rory Martyn-Smith and CPM Gai Wu Falcons front-row forward Tammy Lau Nga-wun took men’s and women’s Premiership player of the year honours.
The nine new Hall of Fame inductees bring its total membership to 28. This year’s intake focuses on influential sevens and 15s players from both genders, with seven of the nine having represented Hong Kong.
Referees are also well represented with three new members in the group – lieutenant commander Harry Brickwood MBE RN, Bill Mason and Tobi Lothian.
Brickwood was attached to the then Royal Navy Base at Tamar from 1974-1987, and as an RFU qualified referee he was involved with the Hong Kong Society of Rugby Union Referees as a match official and referee coach. He refereed at the inaugural Hong Kong Sevens in 1976 and was a key proponent of schools rugby in the city.
Tobi Lothian, the current president of the HKSRUR, was the top ref of his era and remains the last local referee to officiate at the World Sevens Series competition in Hong Kong. He has also refereed numerous internationals throughout the region as a member of the Asia Rugby referees panel.
Former Hong Kong international Bill Mason graduated to refereeing after retiring as a player and went on to become one of Hong Kong’s top officials, handling numerous test matches as well as refereeing at the Hong Kong Sevens.
Five of the seven inducted players – Craig Payne, Vaughn Going, Stephen Kidd, Simon Leung Ho-yam and Karen “Lola” Williams – made their mark in both sevens and 15s.
Payne anchored what was a golden era for the Hong Kong sevens side, representing the territory from 1987-1993 and captaining the Hong Kong team at the inaugural Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament in Scotland in 1993. He was a member of Hong Kong’s 1990 and 1992 Plate-winning teams – the highest finishes for the hosts at the Hong Kong Sevens – and was also a key contributor to the national 15s in the same period.
Going and Kidd, who were key members of the Hong Kong international sides of the 1990s, both arrived from New Zealand in the 1994 season. Going, a fullback, was capped 17 times during a period when Hong Kong regularly beat the USA, Canada, Japan and teams from the Pacific Islands.
After leaving Hong Kong, he went on to play over a hundred first-class matches in England and France, turning out for Harlequins, London Welsh, Sale and Northampton Saints in the English Premiership, and Bezier in France.
Kidd, a scrum-half whose career in Hong Kong was occasionally derailed by injury, was another influential member of the national squads and captained Hong Kong at sevens and 15s. He played 29 tests, and represented Hong Kong on five occasions at the Sevens, including the 1997 Rugby World Cup Sevens when hosts Hong Kong reached the Plate final.
Fellow inductees Leung and Prizzirri represent a more recent vintage of versatile players. Leung made his 15s debut in 2006 as a loose-head prop before reversing rugby’s traditional evolutionary process with a move to the back-row later in his career. He collected 25 caps along the way and captained the national side in both formats of the game.
Prop Spizzirri, an ironman in local rugby circles, excelled in elite front-row rugby for a decade after being capped for the first time in 2002, adding 40 more test appearances through 2011. Spizzirri played his club rugby for Kowloon, Valley and Hong Kong Football Club, enjoying his greatest success with Valley in a run that included multiple Grand Championship titles.
Williams arrived in 1997 to play for the Arabian Gulf Rugby Union in the first-ever Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens and moved here the following year, playing for Aberdeen. Williams would go on to take an influential role in the early development of the women’s game in Hong Kong and represented the SAR in sevens and 15s. She also captained the national 15s side and coached the Hong Kong women’s sevens team.
In addition to the Premiership coach and player awards announced by the HKRU, Valley Red’s Zoe Smith was named women’s development player of the year, after scoring an impressive 93 points for her team, Gai Wu’s Faa'manu Wesley Feausi won the men’s development coach of the year award, and Comvita City Ladies coach Yuen Ho-yin took the same award for women.
On the heels of her appointment as an official for rugby sevens debut at this summer’s Rio Olympics, Gabriel Lee Wing-Yi was named referee of the year. Terry Sibanda of Sai Kung Stingrays and Andrew Lin of Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers shared the award for girls youth coach of the year, Hong Kong national team member Jamie Hood collected the same accolade in the boys category, and Guy Green of HKU/Sandy Bay won the minis volunteer of the year silverware.
The Joel Dunn Award for services to rugby was presented to long-serving youth rugby national team manager Paul Renouf, who typically was away on duty serving as team manager for the Hong Kong junior side competing at the 2016 World Rugby U20 Trophy in Zimbabwe.