HKRU Premiership 2016-17

Valley enforcer Karetai Williams draws on basketball background in grand championship hunt

The 25-year-old forward says winning in his first season in the Hong Kong Premiership would be the ‘number one’ achievement in his career

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 12:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 12:01pm

Valley No 8 Karetai Williams hopes his basketball background can help his side win yet another grand championship, something he says would be the “number one” achievement in his career.

The Hong Kong Premiership enters its final five minor round matches this weekend and again Societe Generale Valley are poised to challenge for both the league and grand championships.

While 25-year-old Williams knows there is plenty of water yet to go under the bridge ahead of Valley’s crunch clash with Kowloon on Saturday, he is excited about what the future holds.

“For me it’d be a real special moment [to win the grand championship] because it’s a decent standard of competition,” he said.

“It would probably be number one in my rugby career, especially with all the experienced players that are playing in the competition now.

“You hear from the boys ‘yeh, this fella played for that team, this fella played Super Rugby’ so the standard over here just speaks for itself and it would a special moment.”

The rugged forward only picked up the sport on a gap year in the UK after finishing school, having spent his teenage years playing basketball.

He went close to representing New Zealand in basketball at under-18 level and credits the game he grew up loving with some of the skills he is displaying for Valley.

“Basketball was my life growing up,” he said.

“It’s just being able to hold the ball. I think one thing I offer in footy is the ability to hold the ball in one hand and have options in any situation I’m in and I think that’s come from basketball.”

After stints playing for North Harbour in his home city of Auckland, Biggar RFC in Scotland and West Harbour under-20s in Sydney’s Shute Shield, it was an appearance at the Hong Kong 10s that saw Williams find his way to Valley.

“I came over for the 10s last year to play for (UBB) Gavekal and obviously Valley has a lot to do with that team,” he said.

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“They approached me after that and asked me if I wanted to come over for a season. I love the fast-paced game of 10s and I’d love to play in Hong Kong again, it’s the best 10s tournament that I’ve been to.”

Saturday’s game against Kowloon presents Valley with the chance to further their buffer inside the top two, while a Kowloon victory would throw the race for the league championship wide open.

“I’m really looking forward to playing against Kowloon, obviously the last game against them didn’t really go to plan,” Williams said in reference to Valley’s 20-13 loss last time out against Kowloon.

“We are looking forward to using this game to build up to the finals. The main goal for us as a team is to win the grand championships but obviously to win the league as well.”

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The weekend’s other matches see second-placed Bloomberg HK Scottish take on Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers and Natixis HKFC clash with Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC.

In the KPMG Women’s Premiership, CPM Gai Wu Falcons play SCAA First Pacific CWB Phoenix, Kowloon lock horns with Valley and HKFC host Comvita City Sparkle.