HK rugby star Henry Poon is proof that heart is more important than height

HK rugby star Henry Poon is proof that heart is more important than height

18-year-old local Hongkonger’s ultimate goal is to represent Hong Kong at the 2020 Olympics

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The population of locals playing rugby is growing, and Henry Poon is among the best of them.
Photo: Henry Poon

Henry Poon is proof that success in sport is a product of culture and good hard work.

If you’ve ever seen the New Zealand All Blacks or South Africa Springboks play, you’d think you need to be at least two metres tall to succeed. But 18-year-old Henry, one of the top young players in Hong Kong despite his short stature, is proof that doesn’t have to be the case.

“Rugby is a game for all, and the growing population of locals playing rugby just shows how well the rugby union is promoting the sport within Hong Kong,” said Henry. “I think Hong Kong rugby is just a reflection of Hong Kong itself – players are very diverse and multicultural and everyone offers something unique to the team. I think it is definitely growing and becoming stronger and stronger.”


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Henry, whose father used to played rugby, was introduced to the game at an early age. Having recently graduated from Chinese International School, he is currently on a gap year playing rugby full time for the Hong Kong Football Club and as a member of the Hong Kong team.

“Representing Hong Kong is always such a privilege and honour,” said Henry, who plans to continue playing while studying at a local university. “My ultimate goal in rugby is to represent Hong Kong at the 2020 Olympics, but my short-term goal is to play in the rugby sevens.”

With a lot of new-wave local and international talent, Hong Kong has become one of the leading rugby nations in Asia, as seen by their winning a fifth straight Asian Rugby U19 Championships after dominating Sri Lanka 40-7 last month.


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“We played [Sri Lanka] twice so we got the chance to understand how they play,” Henry said. “I thought the boys did a really good job in exposing their weaknesses, and put on two great performances.”

Hong Kong coach Stephen Dowse, who called Henry one of the best players on the team, said the national squad hopes to aim even higher than “best in Asia”.

“Asia is at one level and we expect to win that and dominate that, but now we need to challenge ourselves on the world stage,” said Dowse. “This is a really talented group and there are some stand-out players here.”

Being big isn't the biggest deal on the pitch.
Photo: Henry Poon

Henry will be representing Hong Kong in the Coral Coast 7’s in Fiji on Sunday, as well as the U19 Rugby World Championship in Romania this August.

Despite his success, Henry has encountered some struggles in the sport. “Being one of the physically smallest players, it can be very intimidating to speak up, but my position [centre] requires me to dictate and control the game, so it is still an aspect for me to improve on.”

Henry said he enjoyed the game when he first started playing it, but he fell in love with it as he got older – especially after he was able to appreciate the bonds he formed with his teammates.


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“People love the physicality and high intensity of the game, but honestly it’s the brotherhood within the team and being able to put my body on the line for my mates that made me fall in love with the sport.”

Hong Kong rugby has generally been dominated by expats, and while it’s great to have such an ethnically diverse team, he said, “it would be great to see a few local faces put on the Hong Kong jersey.”

As for advice for other young Hongkongers who dream of a future in rugby, Henry said: “Just keep working hard and grab on to as many opportunities as you can. It’s all about putting in the hard work during training and gaining as much experience as possible.”

Edited by M. J. Premaratne

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