Bonded by fun, fondness and food – Hong Kong women ready for rough and tumble
Coming off a groundbreaking 2015, only a grand final appearance and a Friday trip to Hong Kong Stadium will suffice in 2016
An Amazing Race-style challenge around the city has ensured Hong Kong’s players will know each other inside out when they take the field in the Hong Kong Women’s Rugby Sevens at King’s Park on Thursday.
With the final on-pitch preparations put to bed, coach Anna Richards saw an opportunity to lighten up a hectic week while also testing her charges in a different way.
With nothing but their mobile phones and Hong Kong ID cards, the team had to find their way from Tsim Sha Tsui to the team hotel in Quarry Bay, completing tasks en route that included lip syncing with the public and trying on high-end dresses.
“It’s kind of fun and it makes them think and work together,” Richards said.
This type of bonding is not new to a group of girls that first-time captain Natasha Olson-Thorne described as “great friends”.
“Most of our team bonding revolves around food,” she said. “We’ll have yum cha together, we’ll have hot pot, maybe we’ll go out and play mahjong sometimes.”
With the likes of Lindsay Varty, Colleen Tjosvold and Ivy Kwong Sau-yan the jokers in the team, there is never a dull moment.
It’s this closeness that Richards hopes will hold Hong Kong in good stead as they attempt to improve on last year’s semi-final finish.
“There is some great individuals here,” she said. “They see each other every day and they do get along very well.”
New faces Chong Ka-yan and Lee Tsz-ting have brought added enthusiasm to a squad that has a good balance of youth and seniority.
Richards is excited about what the pair bring to the table and is hopeful they can offer an X-factor that will help Hong Kong catch their opponents off guard.
“They’ve both got a great skill set,” Richards said.
“Tsz-ting is very skilful, can cover forwards and backs for us. Ka-yan obviously brings speed as well as a great step. They have both got their individual talents that are going to be great within our team.”
Coming off a groundbreaking 2015 that netted their best ever finish in Hong Kong and a first Asia Rugby Women’s Sevens Series tournament win, it seems only a grand final appearance and a trip to Hong Kong Stadium on Friday will suffice in 2016.
“We want to start strong on day one like we did last year and I think we’ve got a pretty good pool,” Olson-Thorne said. “Our goal is to get into the stadium this year.”
The fact the tournament clashes with round three of the HSBC Women’s Sevens Series in Atlanta will see series participants Japan and France send second-string sides with an eye on development.
Despite this, the massive depth of both nations will ensure they are still among the teams to watch.
Hong Kong have drawn Japan, Argentina, Thailand and Sri Lanka in pool B and, with only two teams progressing to the semi-finals, will need to be on the top of their game from the outset.
Japan will be their biggest challenge, but the aggressive Thailand have also tested Hong Kong on a number of occasions in recent years.
Pool A features France, South Africa, Kazakhstan, China and Kenya.
Injuries to first-choice players Royce Chan Leong-sze and Christy Cheng Ka-chi have tested Hong Kong’s depth.
The experience of the likes of vice-captain Candy Cheng Tsz-ting and Varty will be important in their absence, while brilliant winger Aggie Poon Pak-yan will be crucial to her team’s chances.
Day two of the tournament will be held at the Hong Kong Football Club, with the final to follow at Hong Kong Stadium in the late afternoon.