Women in the Carbine Club? Why, next you’ll see Morris dancing in Hong Kong!

An exclusive members club finally admitted women this Sevens weekend as Morris dancers descended on Hong Kong Stadium

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 April, 2017, 7:44pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 April, 2017, 10:26pm

Like many hallowed “men’s only” clubs – particularly in golf – the Carbine Club allowed women into their pre-sevens lunch yesterday for the first time.

It is the lunch everyone hears about but only the select get invited to.

They have always stayed under the radar, with “Kai Tak Rules” and no reporting. “Because what happens on tour stays on tour,” as the saying goes.

No theme was required for the club named after a horse born in 1885. The name says it all and carries gravitas with corporates who know that in Hong Kong the lines between business and sport – particularly rugby – are blurred.

“The Carbine Club could possibly be the first sporting lunch club in Australia,” says Glenn Haley, honorary secretary of the Carbine Club of Hong Kong. “It started in 1961 in Melbourne and was named after the famous Australian racehorse, Carbine.”

When you come to Hong Kong for the Sevens and spend the weekend in the haunts of Wan Chai

Guests included Steve Redgrave, Li Xiaopeng, Warren Gatland, Sebastian Coe, Ieuan Evans and Trevor Ringland.

Rob Wainwright and Justin Harrison regaled the 580-strong crowd and set the tone for a Sevens full of a blitzkrieg of banter.

Over at the Renaissance Harbour View Hotel, the theme for Valley Sevens Long Lunch was Valhalla with Eric Rush, Martin Johnson, Gordon D’arcy, Andy Barrow and Simon Shaw summoning up their Viking spirit.

This week, David Campese spoke at the AustCham lunch, and Neil de Kock, Charlie Hodgson and Wendell Sailor held the floor at the Kowloon Rugby Fest Dinner in City Hall.

Super troupers

They are eccentric and range from retired English university professors to local students, with diverse backgrounds including from Japan, Taiwan, China, Canada, England and Australia.

Rugby and Morris dancing have many things in common, says foreman (dance teacher) Steve Palmer, who was spotted with the group outside the stadium on opening day: “They are about footwork, they originated in the UK (records date back to 1448 in the case of Morris dancing), and have spread to other parts of the world.”

Morris dancing is a general term for traditional English folk dance. Whether it is clog dancing from the mill towns of the north west, ‘rapper sword’ dancing from the coal mines of the north east, ‘border morris’ from the Welsh borders, or Cotswold Morris, you can guarantee to be entertained, amused and often amazed by the complexity and skill of the performers.

With accompanying music from violins, concertinas, melodeons, drums and even Northumbrian bagpipes, they dance using sticks or handkerchiefs, with bellpads around their shins for added noise and rhythm.

Sevens players’ playlist: what do the teams listen to before they go into battle?

The Hong Kong group has been performing together since the 1970s. Some started as part of university clubs in the UK, others first saw this unusual style of entertainment here in Hong Kong.

For one member, she travelled to the UK as part of her education, saw the dancing and wanted to try it out on her return. “We are an internationally mixed team that puts the social aspect on a par with the dancing,” Palmer says. “It’s fun – and helps to keep you fit. We welcome newcomers – even those with the proverbial two left feet.”

The troupe was not officially part of the Sevens, but is keen to perform next year. “We perform at various events from the Kowloon Cricket Club May Day events, Christmas fairs at the cathedral to Poon Choi Dragon Dance events in the New Territories.”

This town is big enough for the two of us

Sydney suburban “Shire Boy” Tim Cutler was dressed in a kangaroo suit in the South Stand in 2015, with a day job in insurance.

Proving that if you stick around this town long enough and have a passion for sport, you can make a difference, he moved to his “dream job” as CEO of the Hong Kong Cricket Association two years ago. Since he joined as the sport’s first chief executive in the SAR, they have a new long term strategy and rebranded as Cricket Hong Kong (CHK).

For his third Sevens, he’s hobnobbing it in the HKRU box.

“I’ve left the kangaroo suit at home, this year; I am here to take in just how this world-class event is run, to see how we can help breathe new life into our events, including the Twenty20 Blitz and the Hong Kong Sixes.”

Cutler feels there is room for rugby in Hong Kong and cricket to operate on parallel lines.

It’s Madness: Hong Kong noise police refuse to turn a deaf ear as Suggs and Co get the ball rolling on raucous Sevens weekend

“The Hong Kong Sevens broke the mould when it came to sporting events. A few weeks ago, we held the second HK Twenty20 Blitz, a five-franchise, five-day event – different to any other cricket tournament in the world. It’s fair to say we are taking inspiration from rugby’s success in planning our events.”

Despite the apparent rivalry for grounds and players in a city with a paucity of facilities and a common sports season due to the tropical climate, Cutler sees it as quite the opposite. “I very much see Hong Kong rugby as a partner of CHK rather than a competitor. Moreover, I believe that any kid that chooses sport, be it cricket, rugby, football or korfball, is a win for Hong Kong.”

Cutler’s enthusiasm for sport is infectious. “There are so many great qualities team sport instils. I am confident that it has a big part to play in not only growing the leaders of tomorrow, but also in bringing Hong Kong together.

“The Sevens is a great example of Hong Kong innovation and one that can inspire every sport,” he says.