Beneath all the bruising tackles and rough scrums, the key to rugby is sportsmanship – and Tanya Dhar displays it to an impressive degree both on and off the pitch.
The West Island School student was chosen to join the Hong Kong U19 Girls’ team on their tour in Singapore last month after making waves in girls’ rugby. “Getting to represent Hong Kong is a feeling that’s hard to describe. I was beyond excited because of how much quality there was on the team,” Tanya, 16, says.
Hong Kong-born Tanya, who is of Indian descent, played a part in Hong Kong U19’s win over Singapore Combined University and says she gained a lot from her first tour. “I was super happy with how I played as I was playing against girls who were older than me,” she reveals, adding that she hopes to improve her performance match-on-match.
It wasn’t just the quality of rugby that she loved – Tanya loved the social aspect of the tour too. “I made friends with so many people. Plus, having my brother and dad watch me play made the tour all the more special.”
The Dhar family has encouraged Tanya in her sporting pursuits ever since she was little. When she was five, Tanya’s father took her to Sandy Bay one weekend morning to play rugby. “I didn’t know if I wanted to play because there weren’t any girls’ teams then, but thanks to support from my dad, I’ve continued to play,” she explains.
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Tanya has played for HKU Sandy Bay RFC ever since that first Sunday morning, and joined the West Island School’s rugby team when she turned 10. She describes rugby as being an essential factor in forming her positivity and attitude. “I’ve worked extremely hard to make the [Hong Kong] team,” she says. “To see everything pay off is amazing.”
Rugby also taught Tanya the importance of sportsmanship, an aspect which many ignore. “Rugby is a sport that’s classed as ‘rough’ and it involves a lot of physical contact – but everyone always shakes hands after a game.”
Tanya says that her experience playing on the pitch has also helped her with her studies too: “Pushing myself in training – no matter how tired I am – has made me mentally stronger, more confident and more committed to everything I do.”
Eventually, Tanya wants to move onto the senior women’s team and emulate New Zealand's successes in rugby. “They have the best 15’s team in the world”, she said, adding that her goals now are to become a better all-round player.
Tanya isn’t afraid to dream big – there are close to no Indian rugby players in Hong Kong, and she would love to help change that. One of her ultimate goals is to help lead and develop women’s rugby in India. Playing rugby in Singapore was the first step of many, Tanya says, and adds there’s no stopping her now. “I believe there’s a lot more to achieve.”
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What song/movie title best describes you when you’re playing rugby?
Till I Collapse by Eminem.
You can take the abilities of any animal during one competition. Which do you choose and why?
A lion. Lions are fearless, strong and they lead from the front.
What’s your favourite thing to eat before a big event?
I don’t eat anything right before a big game, but about three hours before a game I’ll eat a bit of protein.
Which fictional character would you choose as your teammate?
Winnie the Pooh! His sayings help me keep my motivation: “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”
10 years in the future, you are a famous athlete. What company are you spokesperson for, and what product do you promote?
Adidas. I love their boots for their designs and for how comfortable they are.