King George V (KGV) rugby star Hayden Lui hopes he can inspire more local Chinese players to join the Hong Kong rugby youth movement.
“I feel lucky to have grown up in an international school where I was more exposed to rugby,” said Hayden, who started playing as an eight-year-old Kowloon Junior School student. “When I first started, rugby wasn’t popular in local schools at all, but now we are seeing much more local secondary school talent.”
The 16-year-old said he was inspired by seeing players like Henry Poon, an 18-year-old former Chinese International School student, make the national team.
“Seeing guys like a him, a local Chinese player who isn’t the biggest guy, make the team makes is a huge inspiration and makes me feel like [making the Hong Kong team] is an achievable goal.”
At this rate, he will make the squad, no problem; he’s a star player for KGV, the USRC Tigers, and the Hong Kong U16 team. In November, it was announced he’d lead the Hong Kong U16 Warriors’ squad. “It was a huge honour to be named captain, and it showed me Hong Kong has a lot of local talent.”
But it hasn’t always been easy for Hayden, who plays centre or wing, and who’s overcome some serious injuries to get where he is today.
“I cracked my teeth and broke my collarbone in a game against [Harrow International School],” Hayden said. “I was playing up an age group, and I tackled a big boy, and he fell on my shoulder and broke my clavicle. It was really tough and I considered giving up on rugby for a while, but my peers and coaches kept motivating me and I’m really glad I stuck it out through the hard times.”
Hong Kong has been one of the strongest rugby nations in Asia for some time due to the amount of expats who play, but Hayden said it’s important to continue to attract local talent for the city to become an international powerhouse.
“I’ve seen the national team have more and more local talent, and I really want to carry on this tradition and inspire more local young talents to pursue the sport and show them it’s possible,” he said. “It’s the local talent that can really help Hong Kong pursue a higher level of rugby at the international stage.”
His advice to young rugby players is to “work hard and stay disciplined, even when no one is looking.”
“It’s easy to get complacent. You’ve got to keep striving to improve, otherwise other players will overtake you,” said Hayden.
“You might think that nobody can see the work you put in, but trust me, they will see it. Opportunity will present itself eventually and you have to be ready.”
Favourite tune to listen to before a match:
Till I Collapse by Eminem.
What animal are you most like on the pitch?
A tiger, because I am a USRC Tiger.
Favourite food to eat before a match:
Whatever gets me full!
Rieko Ioane of the New Zealand All Blacks.