Half of Hong Kong’s primary schools are now playing rugby: ‘we need these kids to fall in love with the game’
The HKRU exceeds expectations by introducing the sport to 48 per cent of local schools
The Hong Kong Rugby Union will turn its attention to long-term retention and “quality to go with quantity” after announcing its rugby programmes have reached 48 per cent of local primary schools.
The HKRU set what was considered an ambitious target of exposing 240 local primary schools to rugby by 2019 but has already reached 264 schools with a year to run on the four-year plan.
As pleased as he is with the progress, HKRU chief executive Robbie McRobbie says “we are certainly not being complacent” about how these statistics will one day be quantified at the top end of the game.
“It’s fantastic that 48 per cent of local primary schools are engaged with rugby but we really need to convert this into long-term school rugby team programmes and also broader retention of these kids in the game,” McRobbie said.
“We need these kids to fall in love with the game, to join mini-rugby clubs and continue playing rugby through into their teenage years and beyond into adult rugby.”
The next four-year plan kicks off in 12 months and, while there are no specific targets in place for how the push will one day increase the quality of the Hong Kong Premiership and the national team, it will be top of the agenda come 2019.
“We are now starting to think about the next cycle and what we need to do,” McRobbie said. “It’s about converting this great foothold we have and making sure the quality is there to go along with the quantity. That is going to be the main focus of the next strategic plan.”
McRobbie credited the union’s range of rugby programmes with the faster than expected growth, including the rugby spirit programme – which uses the game to promote key values – and the “tackling life” programme run in 20 Po Leung Kuk schools.
The HSBC Try Rugby initiative, which empowers teachers with rugby knowledge and facilities and was launched early last year, has also played a part.
“Turning the clock back a decade, I don’t think anyone would have dreamed of the progress that has been made in popularising the sport within the local community,” said union chairman Pieter Schats.
The exposure to rugby ranges from an eight-week programme in some schools to proper teams playing matches, says McRobbie, and over 50 primary schools have been introduced to the game within the past 12 months.
While the HKRU’s focus has been predominantly on local schools, McRobbie said it also planned to work more closely with international schools.
“International and English Schools Foundation primary schools tend to have a fairly good awareness of rugby, although we are aware we need to do more with them as well,” he said.
“They do tend to have rugby on their agenda, but we do need to make sure we are not neglecting them.”