Rugby girls tackle start-up problems

Kevin Kung

Despite the challenges, a growing number of Hong Kong girls are persuading their schools to set up rugby teams

Kevin Kung |

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Wong Suet-ying, Ivy Fong Chun-sin, Lee Tsz-ting and Stephanie Ching Tsz-yung hope to encourage other girls to get down and dirty.
Thanks to the annual Rugby Sevens, the sport has become very popular in Hong Kong in recent years. But the development of junior girls' rugby in the city is still at an early stage. Since rugby is a contact sport, girls and their parents may think it's a wise choice, as they don't want to see themselves/their daughters behaving roughly or getting hurt. Inspired by the current Rugby World Cup, Young Post decided to find out whether this is true, and met up with four local rugby-playing girls.

Ivy Fong Chun-sin is the most experienced player among them. The 18-year-old winger from Causeway Bay Rugby Football Club started to train four years ago. She was introduced to the game by a schoolmate.

"She asked me to join and I signed up to Lion Rugby Club girls' team. This season I switched to my current club to play in senior league competitions," said Ivy. Her outstanding performance helped her secure a place in this year's Hong Kong Under-18 Girls National Squad.

The Form Six student from Jockey Club Ti-I College found it difficult to promote rugby at school. "I heard that our school took part in inter-school tournaments many years ago and won some prizes. But after that, the team no longer existed. I would like to have one again, but my school doesn't have the budget," she said. Luckily, there are some junior boys and girls at school interested in playing. "Even without the school's financial support, we will find a way to hire a coach if we have enough players."

Lee Tsz-ting from Chiu Lut Sau Memorial Secondary School faced a similar problem. But in her case, she got a helping hand from the sport's governing body. "Rugby is totally new to my school and I struggled to set up a team," said the Form Four student. The 15-year-old who plays for Tin Shui Wai Eagles is too young for the Under-18 National Squad, but there is currently no Under-16 team. Another club, Sai Kung Stingrays, started an under-16 girls' team called "Hong Kong Bauhinia Ladies U16" for promising female playes. Tsz-ting was selected for last year's team and played in the Bangkok Sevens international tournament. She was named "Best Bauhinia" by her coach.

Sadly, although her school is soon setting up a team, Tsz-ting is not fit to play, after injuring her knee in a recent match. "Our coaches and senior players also had injuries before. I didn't want to stop playing but I was told to be patient. It may take me six to nine months to recover. This is the only way to be able to play again," she accepted. The injury kept her out of the Bauhinia team selection this year, but she still attends training sessions to exercise and watch her teammates.

Wong Suet-ying and Stephanie Ching Tsz-yung are schoolmates from CPC Yao Dao Secondary School. Suet-ying began playing rugby two years ago, despite some objections.

"We need to tackle: people think this is too violent for girls. But I think girls' games don't involve as many crashes as the boys'," said the 15-year-old. She soon introduced Tsz-yung to the sport.

"I joined the cross-country team and Suet-ying was in it too. She invited me to join the rugby club and I fell in love with the sport," said Tsz-yung. She has improved her fitness from playing rugby and now also excels in long-distance running.

These girls are the future hopes for Hong Kong. Since rugby will be included in the 2016 Olympics, the four players should be at their peak by then. All they need is more support from their schools - and from society.