By Matthew Brown, Date: 11/2/15
Hong Kong is a small island nation off the south coast of the People’s Republic of China. Although small, it has a population of over 7 million people and is considered one of the Economic epicentres of Asia, if not the world! It is known for its big skyline buildings, deep harbour, home of Martial Arts legend Bruce Lee and thousands of businesses from around the globe. It has also hosted many international sporting events such as the IRB Rugby 7s, East Asian Games, Olympics, Tennis and Football tournaments.
Thanks to mainly ex-pats living on the small Asian Island, Rugby League is beginning to come to life. I got into communication with Brad Newman, an Australian currently living and working in Hong Kong who is helping Rugby League develop.
How it began
Rugby League has been popular on the island for a while now due to a large amount of UK, New Zealand and Australian expats. The problem had been that there has never been an official organisation or competition to help kick start the sport. In 2014, a Facebook page was created to help promote starting Rugby League in Hong Kong. After a few get togethers during the 2014 Four Nations tournament between interested parties, the concept was immediately created. Plans were made to have a meeting in early December to officially start an organisation of progressing the sport in the nation. From this meeting, the Hong Kong Rugby League organisation was established.
Hong Kong Rugby League at Present
Currently, Brad and the HKRL run social touch games every Monday night. They are hoping to turn it into a competition and create both Touch and Tag Rugby League which will become important tools for Rugby League development. Although a 13 a side format has not been established yet, they are hoping on Anzac Day (25th of April) to have an Open Day for interested players. There are also plans for school boy rugby league, kid’s clinics and a Nines tournament during the event.
Social events are key with HKRL plans as well. During the Auckland 9s, a bar in Wan Chai was chosen so interested fans and supporters of the project to socialise with others to create a community. This way individuals don’t get home sick and it helps create a healthy social scene for all involved with the sport.
Representative Fixtures and Future plans
Just as Australia has its version of State of Origin, Hong Kong will have its own version as well. The game will be Hong Kong Islands vs Kowloon- New Territories and will be played at Victoria Harbour. It is hoped that this will gain attention for the sport and bring in new individuals to the game. A national team representing Hong Kong (Hong Kong Thunder) is pencilled in to take on another Asian nation, the opponents however have yet to be chosen. The Thunder name was chosen due to the massive storms and typhoons which batter Hong Kong and their colours will be red, white and black.
At the end of the year, the board will review how their first year went. A full-fledged domestic competition are also in the plans of the HKRL board. Brad feels the future is bright for the game in HK because many players, volunteers, coaches and referees have put their hands up to help expand Rugby League in the tiny island nation. His comments couldn’t be truer because with Rugby League expanding across the Asian continent and the Asian-Pacific Federation supporting International Rugby League expansion, Hong Kong looks like it will have a big future a head of it both domestically and Internationally!