Ready to wave my own wand
Under the stewardship of Leigh Jones, Hong Kong climbed to their highest ever International Rugby Board ranking of 23; travelled to Kazakhstan and won there for the first time; claimed the Emirates Cup of Nations in Dubai; beat, nae battered, Belgium twice; and for the first time in Hong Kong’s history reached the Rugby World Cup repechage stage.
Now, I know what you’re all thinking, “Follow that, Hally!” It’s fair to say I do carry that weight of expectation but it is a challenge I am relishing and one I am prepared for.
I have been fortunate to work with the Welsh wizard for nearly 10 years after first meeting him when I played for Newport Gwent Dragons where he was forwards coach.
Having spent four previous years playing for Glasgow, moving to south Wales took some adjusting, not least with the language barrier!
“Who’s coat is that jacket?” Or, “I’ll be there now in a minute to give you a cwtch” were just some of the Welshisms that were truly lost in translation.
However, after an intense period of watching the complete Gavin ’n’ Stacy box set I was soon up to speed with all of the terms, and particularly Leigh’s nuisances.
I really enjoyed my time in Wales and while I did not always agree with Leigh’s selection decisions, even at this early stage I was learning from him tips and tricks that would help develop my coaching craft.
Leigh’s mentoring continued on my arrival to Hong Kong in our respective roles as coach development manager and as head coach of Leighton Asia Hong Kong Cricket Club.
As my first full-time coaching position I felt somewhat chucked in at the deep end, but Leigh took me under his wing and, along with the other fledgling club coaching officers, helped guide us through the complex challenge that is coaching in Hong Kong.
I have certainly felt the effects of Leigh’s measured guidance over the past four seasons and do genuinely feel ready for the big job. Not since achieving my Scotland cap have I felt such pride and I am honoured to be tasked with continuing to help drive Hong Kong rugby forward.
I have learnt a tremendous amount over the best part of a decade; skills which have certainly improved my craft.
So should the players and my fellow coaches expect another (albeit slightly larger version of) Leigh Jones? Far from it. I intend to build on that strong foundation by putting my own stamp on the team, a challenge that again I am thoroughly excited about.