Rugby runs through my veins, says MVP Lara Schats as Hong Kong Dragons romp to victory
Australian International School student and teen prodigy, whose two older brothers and dad all play rugby, scoops the player of the match as her hard work pays off
Deemed the standout player of the Ladies U19 Hong Kong Dragons’ 47-0 rout against the Overseas Lions, 17-year-old Lara Schats says rugby has been running through her veins since birth.
“If you come to my house, rugby will be running on the TV non-stop,” said the fly-half following the 2018 New Year’s Day Youth Rugby Tournament at Football Club on Monday. “I’ve been playing since I was seven, I have two older brothers who play, and my dad used to play. Rugby is everywhere.”
The Australian International School student deservedly scooped the player of the match after a near-flawless team performance three months in the making.
“This year we had high intensity training and when you’re working hard and dying together, it brings you closer. You could see our chemistry on the field,” said Lara, the daughter of Pieter Schats, the chairman of the Hong Kong Rugby Union.
“If someone dropped the ball, we were always positive – we were working for each other.
“I’m happy to win the award but it’s not really about me. Rugby is a team sport and training with these girls as a unit has been very hard but very good.”
There is inevitably an element of added pressure when representing the “home” side, but Schats & Co managed to channel it into something positive.
“We talk about it on tour all the time,” said Schats, who plays for the USRC Tigers. “Putting on the Hong Kong jersey is really special, no matter the age group. The girls soon realise it’s game time, and that we’re not just representing ourselves, but Hong Kong as a whole.
“It’s a different feel to playing for your club. This is where it all starts.”
Although she continues to work away at school, there is certainly no indication of a slowing down of Schats’ rugby path.
“I just have so much passion for it,” said Schats, who has been playing since the age of seven. “I want to see where it takes me and see if I’m good enough. If I could grab a spot in a UK university, it’s an option.”
The combination of raw passion and technical prowess gives Schats an evident edge on the field as she showed glimpses of class similar to that of modern-day Australia great Charlotte Caslick.
“I think [what sets me apart] is my ability to read the game. I find space and I can put others into space.
“I always watch her when she’s playing,” said Schats of Caslick. “I pay close attention to what she’s doing.”
Dragons coach Brando Vaaulu was full of praise for the teen prodigy and insisted the only way is up for the Hong Kong women’s rugby scene.
“Lara thoroughly deserved it,” said Vaaulu. “She and the team got to show their [progress], it was good. There were many standout performances out there today.
“They did everything I expected them to do and it’s definitely a way to scout Hong Kong’s best players, both in the home and overseas team.
The U19s ladies secured the Lassies Quaich, one of nine team trophies on the line on January 1. This was the 51st edition of the New Year’s Day Youth Rugby Tournament, an annual tradition dating back to 1966.