HKRU Premiership 2016-17

Captain Mitch Andrews hails ‘massive difference’ in Hong Kong Football Club this season

The team from Sports Road takes on Valley this Saturday with the chance of grabbing top spot on the table

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 January, 2017, 4:49pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 January, 2017, 10:23pm

Skipper Mitch Andrews says there is a “massive difference” between the Football Club side of last year and the one that has the chance to grab top spot in the Hong Kong Premiership this weekend.

Natixis HKFC were bundled out in the quarter-finals last year despite finishing the minor round in third, but a win against Societe Generale Valley this week could see them leading the charge for the league championship.

“If we knock them off and other results go our way then we could be sitting on top,” Andrews said.

“There is a massive difference this year. We have a high calibre of players there now, we have got Jevon Groves and Tom Isaacs and they are both professional rugby players. They have brought a lot of chat and all their experience to the team.”

HKFC have been going about their business quietly this season while the likes of Valley, Kowloon and Bloomberg HK Scottish command the headlines.

But the HKRU’s decision during the week to award HKFC the points for their clash with Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC in November has catapulted them up the ladder, only four points behind Valley.

At the time, HKCC were unable to field a side due to a lack of front-row forwards and although there was talk of rescheduling the match, the final decision was to allocate the points to the Football Club.

“We thought we were just going to sneak in there and get a place in the semis, we didn’t expect to be getting an opportunity to sit at the top,” Andrews said.

“We were a bit slow out of the gates but we are hoping to hit the home straight with good form.”

The 27-year-old is enjoying his first season as captain after joining the club prior to last season.

From Wellington, Andrews moved to Melbourne for work in 2013 after completing his carpentry apprenticeship and found himself playing for Melbourne Rising in the National Rugby Championship, one tier below Super Rugby.

“I moved there solely for work and just played footy on the side, rugby almost went out the door to be honest,” the hooker said.

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“I was working Saturday morning’s, so it took a back seat for a while and then I started making some serious teams so I picked it back up and stopped working Saturday mornings.”

Andrews admits that due to the Melbourne Rebels wealth of hookers at the time, making the next step was never really likely and he eventually decided on a move to Hong Kong for a “lifestyle” change.

He’ll need to be at his very best on Saturday if HKFC are to knock off a Valley side smarting from last week’s loss to Kowloon and coach Phil Bailey knows near enough will not be good enough.

“We need to take our opportunities but also play smart footy and limit our mistakes,” he said.

“The big thing for us is errors and not compounding those errors.”

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Elsewhere, Kowloon takes on Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers and HKCC meet Scottish at Aberdeen.

In the KPMG Women’s Premiership, Comvita City Sparkle host CPM Gai Wu Falcons, Tigers play Kowloon and SCAA First Pacific CWB Phoenix clash with HKFC.