Determined to be winners

Determined to be winners

A school rugby team, which struggled to find players after being formed only four years ago, is now the best in Hong Kong.

Choi Hung Estate Catholic Secondary School's rugby players are celebrating tremendous success - only four years after forming a team.

Form Three student Mak Kwai-hin and other rugby fans at the school asked PE teacher Thomas Chan Kin-shing to help organise a team after attending the Operation Breakthrough programme, which encourages youth development through sport.

At the time, the inter-school sevens tournament didn't exist, and the new squad struggled to find enough volunteers to play in the 10s tournament.

Yet the school's players improved rapidly, and this season their A-grade team were crowned the best in Hong Kong - as champions at November's Hong Kong Island & Kowloon Inter-school competition, and also last month's All Hong Kong Inter-School Rugby Sevens.

"I didn't expect this new team to have such great success," Chan says. "My aim was to find out the students' potential in the sport. I chose students with different characters and physiques.

"Not all of them kept playing, but I've been impressed that some boys, who may never have thought of themselves as athletes, really made good use of the opportunity and have dedicated themselves to playing rugby."

Core player Kelvin Chan Ka-chun was overweight when Chan, his Form Three teacher, asked him to try the sport.

"I was very slow running around the field at the beginning, but I really worked hard to improve my fitness; now it's much better," says the Form Five student, who plays as a prop or a hooker in sevens.

Kelvin says the key to the team's success is hard work and team spirit - two qualities shown by teammate Kenneth Li Sau-ping. Kenneth, a Form Five student who plays prop, suffered a severe knee injury, which required surgery last summer, and led to him missing the inter-school competition.

"I'm 19 and next year I will be too old to play for the team," he says. "But I was determined to play one last time, so I took all my physiotherapy and rehab exercises seriously to speed up my recovery. It worked well, and I played at last month's All Hong Kong competition. I scored a try in the final. It was the perfect ending."

The three Mak brothers - former captain Kwai-hin, younger brother Kwai-chung, and elder brother Kwai-tung - have also helped the team do well. Kwai-hin graduated last year and Kwai-chung, who is a Form Six student, took his place as co-captain, with Ray Li Tsz-hin, this season. Kwai-tung never studied at the school, but coaches the team.

"I'll join the rugby football union's under-20 squad this summer," says Kwai-chung, who plays as a centre or a winger. "I hope I play well and join Hong Kong's under-20 squad. My dream is to represent Hong Kong at the Asian Games."

Another centre or winger, Brian Leung Ka-kiu, is likely to be the A-grade team's future captain. He learned the game quickly and was promoted to the B-grade team four years ago. "Playing against older players has helped me improve," says Brian, a Form Four student who captains the B-grade team.

Chan says: "The boys' victories, together with the success of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, have made the sport very popular at our school. We'll hold a summer training camp so that, hopefully, next season, our A- and B-grade teams will continue doing well - and finish in the top four at the next inter-school competition."

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