Life in Wong Tai Sin didn't offer much hope for Lam Hip-hau. Now 20, Lam - known as 'Tank' - was what the police would term an 'at risk' youth. A child from a low-income family, Lam was headed down a path of juvenile delinquency and crime ... until he discovered rugby. After getting in trouble with police, Lam was referred by social workers to Operation Breakthrough, which five years ago worked with the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union and Standard Chartered to introduce a rugby programme. Lam was one of the first to give it a try. 'Operation Breakthrough gave me a sporting chance after I got in trouble,' said Lam. 'It was make or break for me to turn over a new leaf and become a better person.' Last night, Lam was at Hong Kong Stadium and working hard. The HKRFU employed him as a runner - dealing with programmes, passing on messages and whatever other jobs that needed doing. It was a busy night for Operation Breakthrough, as 100 of its children were given tickets to watch the action. They were among a group of 5,000 youngsters given free entry, many of whom were from the Don't Drop The Ball programme, Don't Drop The Ball was launched this year by the HKRFU and the Hong Kong Police Force to encourage youngsters to participate in sport. Supported by the government's Efficiency Unit and Standard Chartered, the programme has introduced touch rugby into 20 schools and counting. According to Lam, programmes like Operation Breakthrough and Don't Drop The Ball give troubled youngsters a focus for their energy and can help broaden their horizons. 'My commitment and loyalty to the game helped me make many good friends on and off the pitch. I am respected by my teammates,' he said. 'Had it not been for the exposure to rugby, I would not have had the opportunity to travel and compete overseas. 'My self-esteem and confidence grew, which led to better relationships with my friends and family. I have become a better, more responsible person in controlling my anger, emotions and, more importantly, pursuing my academic career to get a good job in the future.' Robbie McRobbie, a former policeman who is the HKFRU's community rugby manager, said the union was proud of Lam's progress. 'When Tank came to us, he was a very different lad,' said McRobbie. 'He is now playing in the senior police team and last year played in the youth showcase games at the Sevens. He has recently earned his rugby coaching qualification and the improvement in his self-esteem has been tremendous to witness. He is now a real mentor for other Breakthrough kids.' In addition to supporting Operation Breakthrough and Don't Drop The Ball, the HKRFU also has a trust that provides financial support to youngsters like Lam to stay in education. 'Without the trust, it would be very difficult for Tank to still be studying,' said McRobbie, who added that one of the most pleasing aspects of the programmes was seeing the likes of Lam starting to help others. 'Don't Drop the Ball is seeing some of our original children giving back to the next generation of Hong Kong youth. These young men and women are going out and becoming community role models. One of the Operation Breakthrough youngsters, from the boxing section, has actually gone on to become a police officer,' McRobbie said. 'With Operation Breakthrough, there are always some interesting developments - in the past couple of weeks another 'Breakthrough kid' has played in the Hong Kong First Division for the first time, and he's also played for Hong Kong under-20s. 'A number of the Breakthrough boys like Tank, who have coaching qualifications, are helping us coach in local schools as part Don't Drop the Ball.'