Black Ferns’ Rugby World Cup stars giving back to the ‘game that has given us so much’ in Hong Kong Premiership
New Zealanders Aroha Savage and Rawinia Everitt are just two of a host of players with international experience involved in Saturday’s decider between Valley and Gai Wu
She was part of the New Zealand team that thumped Hong Kong 121-0 in last year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup in Dublin and now Aroha Savage is doing her bit to develop the sport here.
Along with fellow Black Fern Rawinia Everitt, Savage joined Societe Generale Valley at the start of the KPMG Women’s Premiership season and has also held a coaching role with Hong Kong’s under-16 national age grade side.
The No 8 will be a key player as Valley take on Gai Wu in Saturday’s grand championship final and, while it may not be a World Cup decider, Savage is still excited.
“I’m pretty nervous to be honest, it’s going to be a massive game,” she said.
At just 27, Savage hopes to add to her 28 Black Ferns’ caps, as well as her two World Cup victories in 2010 and 2017.
“I’m hoping to go back later this year, they have just confirmed two fixtures for this year so I might go home and try to crack the team again,” she said.
“It’s pretty surreal, you work for four years just to lift the Cup. It was unreal, you just feel relieved that all the hard work and sacrifices paid off in the end.”
Everitt has been restricted to the role of forwards coach at Valley after learning only a week out from last year’s World Cup that her rugby career was over.
“My spinal canal is squeezing my spinal cord, it needs surgery. I was coming over as a player-coach but I told Valley the news and they said ‘still pack your bags, we are still keen to have you and your experience’,” said Everitt, who has 24 New Zealand caps and also played netball for the Northern Mystics in the now defunct trans-Tasman ANZ Championship. “It’s been tough to deal with but coming to Hong Kong and coaching has definitely helped.”
Everitt has also played some netball for Valley but says the move to Hong Kong was all about rugby: “That’s the reason we came to Hong Kong, to try and give back to the game that has given us so much.”
The Hong Kong connection came via Valley coach Bella Milo, who the pair played with in Auckland, and Savage will be far from the only player with World Cup experience on the field come Saturday.
Milo herself represented Samoa at two World Cups, while there will be 11 players on show from the Hong Kong side that travelled to Dublin in 2017.
Gai Wu’s international contingent includes Chong Ka-yan and Aggie Poon Pak-yan, while Colleen Tjosvold and Karen So Hoi-ting headline Valley’s star-studded line-up.
“The World Cup players are starting to stand up and the challenge for them this weekend is to show their quality after going to a World Cup and playing what has been Hong Kong’s most competitive season of women’s rugby,” Hong Kong 15s coach Jo Hull said, adding that the rise of national age grade players like Valley winger Jess Eden is proof the legacy created by the World Cup is flowing down the grades.
“We’ve got that next level of players coming through and for us to have 11 World Cup players in a final is a real testament to Hong Kong rugby.”
Gai Wu are looking to secure the double after winning the league championship, while Valley are out to make it four grand championship victories in a row.