After a decade of helping Hong Kong women’s youth rugby reach new heights, Grace Hood is ready for the big leagues.
During her third and final stint on the Hong Kong Under -20s squad, this time serving as captain, she helped the team reach the Asian U20 Rugby final for the first time earlier this month.
“Rugby is definitely growing in Hong Kong and especially since I’ve gone away to university, there are hundreds more girls interested in the sport, some that I’ve never played with before,” the University of Bath student said. “So I’d say it’s getting pretty big.”
Now that the 20-year-old is moving on from youth rugby, she’s looking forward to a professional career with the senior team. The fly-half and centre player just signed a contract with the Hong Kong Rugby Union to play professionally – both for sevens and 15s.
“It’s exciting, but now I have to work my butt off,” said Hood, who is entering her final year studying for a degree in sport performance. “The Union have me on a personalised training programme, and I won’t have anyone pushing me to do it. I’m going to be doing it all on my own.”
The former KGV student said that the girls’ rugby programme at her university is slightly underdeveloped, so she will be training with the boys’ team to make up for it. “I love training with the guys,” she said. “I think it helps me a lot.”
This practice is reflected in Hood’s feelings about her sport. When asked about her favourite part of the game, she said it was definitely “the contact area”.
“I love smashing people,” she said with a laugh.
Now that the sport is growing, Hood hopes to encourage even more girls follow her path and consider rugby as a viable career path. “It’s perfect for people who just want to get out of education and have something else to do,” she said.
Hood, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, is happy to see the recent influx of local talent.
“The team used to be made up of just ESF students, but now even local schools are starting to bring players into summer camps and bring them into national age grade training camps, so we’re seeing a lot more talent and interest. It seems like most people who try the sport love it.”
The Hong Kong U20 boys’ rugby squad has dominated in Asia for a while now, winning the tournament for the fourth straight year. But now Hood is ready to push the girls into elite territory, and she hopes to be part of the first Hong Kong women’s team to make it to the Olympic Games.
“That would be a dream come true,” she says.