134 YEARS OF HISTORY: THE MAKING OF HONG KONG FOOTBALL CLUB RUGBY SECTION

25 Aug 2020


Founded in 1886, the legendary Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC) has witnessed the development of Hong Kong rugby for over a century. In their 135th year, we caught up with Ian Petersen, Chairman of HKFC’s Rugby Section, to look back upon the history of this time-honoured club.

 

Our name reflects our origins and distinguished history as a club for playing both Rugby Football and Association Football, also known respectively as Rugby Union and Soccer.                                                          

The Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC) is one of the finest sporting clubs in Asia and boasts superb facilities across a broad spectrum of competitive and recreational sports, including our own full sized all weather World Rugby and FIFA approved pitch and stadium.

Our Club’s dragon logo, which has been worn on the left side of our playing shirts since the 1930s, is synonymous with Hong Kong, our home. The current dragon logo version was designed by Rugby Section member Don Black and has been used since the end of 1991.

The Club strives to be not only a world-class venue for playing sport, but also a place to relax, meet friends and have fun.

The Rugby Section currently has over 500 members and fields seven men's and two women's teams in Hong Kong's domestic leagues. The Section always welcomes talented new players of all ages, along with coaches and administrators, to come and join us.

In addition, the Section provides a comprehensive programme of youth, colts and mini rugby programmes for almost 900 players of all ages.

The Rugby Section also organises the Hong Kong Tens annually in the days immediately preceding the Hong Kong Sevens.



Time to take a look back through the history books…

1886

HKFC was founded on Friday 12 February 1886 at a meeting arranged by James Stewart Lockhart at the Victoria Recreation Club. 

James Stewart Lockhart

HKFC have been playing rugby in Happy Valley since 16 February 1886. On that day, a team picked by Dr Pike beat one picked by Dr Thompson by a goal and two tries to nil.

The best players from this match were selected to form the HKFC All Comers XV which played the Garrison XV. This ended in a draw in favour of the Garrison because, although each side had scored a goal, All Comers had touched down twice in self defence.

Team Sheet for the Second Match

With this match, it could be said that HKFC is the birthplace of rugby in Hong Kong.


HKFC’s first clubhouse and pitch

HKFC as the first civilian rugby club in Hong Kong and, for over a century, played against teams from the Royal Hong Kong Police, and whichever British Army Regiments, Royal Air Force squadrons and Royal Navy personnel were stationed in or visiting Hong Kong. 

 

1895 Rugby Club vs Navy

HKFC has always welcomed the other civilian clubs that have been formed over the years and enjoyed the increase in the quality and variety of competition as the great game of rugby has grown in Hong Kong.


1908

HKFC Rugby Section has been playing Interport matches against teams from other port cities in the region for well over 100 years, starting with the first match against Shanghai in Hong Kong in 1908. The final Interport versus Shanghai was played in late March 1949, as Shanghai fell to the People’s Liberation Army two months later.

 

In addition, the Rugby Section played Interports against teams from Bangkok, Singapore, Jakarta, Manila, Kuala Lumpur, Saigon, Vientiene and Columbo.

 


Last HKFC vs Shanghai Rugby Interport 1949


1919

“England” played “Scotland” expatriates on 27 December 1919 in a forerunner to the regular St George’s versus St Andrew’s Society matches played nowadays.

 

“England” vs “Scotland”


1932 to 1986

HKFC Rugby Section has a long history of hosting seven-a-side tournaments. The HKFC Blarney Stone Sevens tournament was first played from 1932 to 1941 and resumed from 1947 to 1986.

 


Blarney Stone Seven-a-side Winners 1957
Blarney Stone Seven-a-side Winners 1986


1935

HKFC played matches versus Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank, now HSBC, for almost a century, with HSBC competing as Wayfoong.

1939 to 1945

Many Club members fought and lost their lives during World War II.

1939-1945 Roll of Honour


1950 to 2020

In 1950, Roy Kilvert played his first rugby match for HKFC and went on to play over 100 more after that. Since then, 97 other players have joined Roy to become HKFC Rugby Centurions by playing one hundred or more competitive league and cup rugby matches for HKFC.

HKFC Rugby Centurion Honour Board as of June 2020


1950

In February 1950, HKFC played its first match against Cercle Sportif Saigon at HKFC.

First HKFC vs Saigon Rugby Interport 1950


1951 to 1997 & 2011 to 2017

In 1951, HKFC hosted its first annual Taipan’s Day match between the Taipan’s team of civilian players living in Hong Kong and the Commander of British Forces’s team of army, navy, marines and air force players.

1983 Duncan Bluck’s Taipan’s XV


1952

In January 1952, the first “All Hong Kong” Rugby XV flew to Japan for a three-match tour. The team was captained by a serviceman. The squad included many Club players, plus Club’s then captain Gerry Forsgate who was injured and toured as an observer.

Hong Kong Rugby Squad for Japan Tour

On 8 October 1952, HKRFU played its first official fixture in Hong Kong at HKFC, when the Colony XV played Oxford University Past and Present, who beat the Colony team which included six Club players.

1953

In March 1953, HKFC Club XV played the Fijians from the British Forces serving in Malaya.

HKFC vs Malay Forces Fijians 1953

On 7 November 1953, HKFC Club XV played Saigon.

Then, in late November 1953, a match was played between Club and Combined Services to showcase local rugby to P.M. Holman President of the English Rugby Football Union, as part of the efforts of HKRFU to gain recognition from that body.


1955

On 5 January 1955, HKFC’s stadium was fully completed when its floodlights were turned on.



1957 to 1958

The next overseas tour by the Colony team was in November 1957 to Singapore and Malaysia and included six Club players. Tour expenses totalled $515.29, of which 47% was for “refreshments”. Clearly ot much has changed since then.

 

These players again played for the Colony in March 1958 against the New Zealand Colts led by the legendary Wilson Whinerary, who went on to play 77 times for the All Blacks, 67 of them as captain, between 1957 and 1965.

 

1958 also saw the first visit to Hong Kong by a team from Taiwan, with Club being the only team to beat them on their three match tour.

 

1962

In October 1962, the Colony XV, including nine Club players, took on the University of Paris under floodlights before the largest crowd since the end of World War II, including His Excellency the Governor, Sir Robert Black, Lieutenant General Sir Reginald Hewetson, who was Commander British Forces in Hong Kong and the Consul General of France, Monsieur Saint-Mieux,

 

1965

On Saturday 6th February 1965, the “Big Beat” pop concert featuring the British bands, Manfred Mann and The Kinks, appeared at the HKFC Stadium.

 

In July 1965, the Thai rugby captain of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club and the South African captain of the HKFC Rugby Section, ADC “Tokkie” Smith met in Bangkok and decided to launch the Jim Holt Trophy Interport between RBSC and HKFC. The first match for that trophy was hosted at HKFC in October of that year.

 

1969

In 1969, the Colony XV, including four Club players, travelled to Japan for the first ever Asian Rugby Football Tournament.


1971

In 1971, on its tour of the Far East, England Hong Kong played at HKFC, with England winning 26-0 and Bob Lloyd partnering Jeremy Janion in the centres.


1974

In February 1974, the Lao civil war, the Rugby Section toured to play Vientiene Rugby Club in Laos and stayed in the palace of His Highness Prince Alain-Panya Souvanna Phouma, who learnt to play while studying in France.


HKFC Rugby vs Vientiene in 1974

Later that year, in November, while the Colony team, featuring several Club players, was in Colombo in Sri Lanka to play in the 4th Asian Rugby Football Tournament, martial law was declared.


1975

On 15 September 1975, HKFC was the venue for Hong Kong’s international rugby match Wales, who fielded their full Grand Slam winning team, which included Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennet, John Dawes, Gerald Davies, JPR Williams and Mervyn Davies. The Hong Kong team contained 13 Club players, including the captain, former England international Bob Lloyd, as well as former Wallaby international Jules Guerassimoof. Hong Kong held Wales to 13-3 by half time, before the Wales ran out 57-3 winners.

Hong Kong vs Wales 1975


1976

The Inaugural Hong Kong Sevens was played at the Hong Kong Football Club on the 28th of March 1976. It was organised by the Hong Kong Rugby Union, whose chairman was HKFC Rugby Section Member, Tokkie Smith.

The Hong Kong Team was coached by HKFC member, Peter Duncan, and featured seven HKFC members, including the captain, Bob Lloyd.

HK Sevens 1976 Programme

1978

In another first for the club, HKFC Rugby Section started Hong Kong’s first mini rugby programme at HKFC in 1978. From small beginnings by a few enthusiastic rugby loving parents with energetic young children looking for some weekend sport, Mini Rugby has blossomed at HKFC and throughout Hong Kong. No less than six of the HKFC senior players in the 2020 men’s Hong Kong Sevens squad began as mini rugby players at HKFC.

 


Up until 1978, the Rugby Section fielded three grades of teams, being Club, Dragons and Vandals in the then pentangular and knockout tournaments and three equal teams, being Cavaliers, Demons and Vulcans, to contest the league competition. This changed when the league split into two divisions for the 1978/79 season and the Section began fielding Club and Dragons in Division 1 and Vandals in Division 2, with Scorpions being formed and joining Division 2 with effect from the 1980/81 season.

 

1981

In the summer of 1981, the Britsh pop star, Rod Stewart, played a series of sold out concerts in the HKFC Stadium.


1984

In 1983 to 84, HKFC Rugby Section achieved “the Grand Slam of Hong Kong Rugby” when not only did Club win the 1st Division with Dragons as runners up, but also Vandals won the 2nd Division, with Scorpions as runners up. In addition, Club won the Peter Scott Knock Out Cup, the Kendal Plate, the Jim Holt Trophy versus Royal Bangkok Sports Club, the Kim Robertson Trophy versus Wayfoong and both the Bill Riach and the Blarney Stone Sevens to make this the most successful season in memory.

HKFC Club 1st XV established in 1886
HKFC Dragons 2nd XV established in 1960
HKFC Vandals 3rd XV established in 1970

HKFC Scorpions 4th XV established in 1980


1986

To mark the centenary of HKFC, the Governor and Club Patron, Sir Edward Youde, opened the Lockhart Hall on 17 April 1986.

Youde at Lockhart Hall1

To mark the centenary, the Rugby Section played in a special, blue, white, orange, green and yellow harlequin strip, incorporating the colours of the shirts of all of its teams. At that time, there were seven other rugby clubs in Hong Kong, British Forces, Flying Kukris, Tigers, Stanley Fort, Police, Valley and Kowloon. 

1986 HKFC Rugby Tens Team

In addition, the Section organized the inaugural HKFC Rugby Tens Tournament, which has been run annually ever since, in the week preceding the Hong Kong Sevens.

1986 HKFC Rugby 10s Programme

The Rugby Section also sent a 40-man squad on a ten-day five-match rugby tour to Sydney, Australia, Suva, Fiji and Tokyo, Japan.


1988

HKFC Select XV was established.

 

 

1990

HKFC Sequins XV was established in 1990 by Craig Wootten for knarled older players unwilling to hang their boots up and allergic to training, as they were already finely tuned mature athletes who knew all the moves. Sequins continues to thrive, with its members easily recognisable in sequined waistcoats, occupying Sequins Corner in the North Stand, enjoying beers and dispensing humorous advice to younger players in higher teams.

1991 HKFC Sequins XV


1993

The cartoonist, Napier Dunn, produced an excellent composite picture of HKFC’s many sporting activities.

Art by Napier Dunn


1995

On 18 March 1995, the Rugby Section hosted the Taipan’s Day on HKFC’s new pitch in its new clubhouse complex, 100 years to the day after Club played the Navy in 1895, on another pitch within the racetrack as the Club’s previous stadium was not yet ready.

1995 Taipan Bret Penman's XV
1995 Taipan's Match Action

Apart from the Rugby Section’s league teams, it has a Contemptibles XV, originally founded in 1981 by ex-Chairman Ray Bruce to play social over 35 years old rugby, with the tongue-in cheek humourous motto “Age and cunning overcomes youth and agility”.


1996

Women’s rugby began at HKFC in the 1996/97 season, with the Rugby Section fielding two teams who played in the first and second divisions of the then ten-a-side Women’s Rugby League.

These pioneering ladies were quick to join the rugby tradition of touring and were the first from any sport to travel internationally from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, when they departed early on the 1st July 1997 to play in the Cape Fear Sevens, the largest rugby sevens tournament in the USA. The team made quite an impact and won the “Best and Fairest Player” award, which was, for the first time in presented to an entire team.

Ever since then, the women’s teams have been an integral part of the Rugby Section, both competitively on the pitch and socially off the pitch.  They have continued to field strong teams and develop quality players, many of whom have gone on to represent Hong Kong internationally at fifteen and seven-a-side rugby.

 

1997 HKFC Women’s 1st XV

The Section also fielded an experimental Under 19 men’s team called the Jesters.

 

1999

Saturday, 13th March 1999, was a memorable day for HKFC Rugby, because on that day, the Section’s teams achieved what became known as “The Full Monty”. Club, Vandals, Scorpions, Sequins and the Women’s Ice teams all won their respective Grand Championships. This was all the more remarkable given that, at that time, HKFC was the only remaining fully amateur rugby club in the Premier Division.

 

At the start of the 1999/2000 season, the Rugby Section merged a vibrant but struggling local club, the Bulls, into the Section, to help the Bulls and create a development team with the goals of bringing in new and local players and providing a pathway to the senior teams for those with talent.

 

Original HKFC Bulls XV, established in 1999


Rugby Touring

Touring to play rugby in other countries has always been an integral part of the Rugby Section’s activities, together with welcoming visiting teams, ever since the early days when Club played home and away interport matches against Shanghai.

In recent years, in addition to competitive tours, the Rugby Section has incorporated a charitable element into tours by its Vandals touring teams to developing countries to help spread the love of rugby to underprivileged children in schools, by donating equipment, providing coaching and improving facilities. 

Vandals Tour to Bengaluru in India in May 2019, partnering with Khelo Rugby there


2002

On 12 October 2002, 12 Section members and friends of the Rugby Section were among the 202 people from around the world who tragically lost their lives in the terrorist Bali bombings.

In their honour, the Rugby Section holds an annual remembrance ceremony at HKFC, while our UK based Exiles do the same at the Bali Memorial in London. We also celebrate the lives of our lost players and friends in our annual Walton Brunch, named after the Club Captain who initiated it and wear a memorial logo on the right chest of our playing shirts.

Bali Memorial Logo
Memorial Plaque in HKFC Clubhouse
Bali Memorial London, England


2004

HKFC Club first team won the Grand Championship.

2008

HKFC Club team won the double of both the Premier League and Grand Championship, while Dragons completed the 2nd Division double.

2010

In March 2010, HKFC hosted its 25th annual Rugby Tens Tournament.

HKFC Rugby Tens Programmes

The HKFC Rugby Tens Tournament, started in 1986 as a one off event to commemorate our centenary, has grown over the years into arguably the best tens tournament in the world. In the process, it has incorporated a charity element and in 2019, with the help of a galaxy of ex-international stars, raised a considerable sum for the Hong Kong Cancer Fund.

On 30 October 2010, HKFC hosted the largest mini rugby tournament in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. This was organized by the Hong Kong Mini Rugby Football Union and comprised 2,610 players.



HKFC Club first team won the Grand Championship.

2011

HKFC Club first team won the Premier League.

2014

HKFC Expendables XV established in 2014 as the Section’s seventh men’s XV. Since then, the Rugby Section has had the following seven teams, named in order of seniority, starting with the 1st XV, Club, followed by Dragons, Scorpions, Select, Bulls, Sequins and ending with Expendables.

 


2019

The Natixis HKFC Club first team won their first Premier League title since 2011. In addition, HKFC teams won five other league titles, including the Women’s Premier A, while the Scorpions and Select teams went on to do doubles by winning their respective Grand Championships.

Natixis Club 1st XV

Natixis Club Ice XV


2020

The Natixis HKFC Club first team completed the unprecedented clean sweep treble of winning all three top flight trophies on offer in the 2019/20 season, by winning their first Grand Championship in over nine years, having already won the inaugural Challenge Trophy in October 2019, and secured a back to back Premier League title in January 2020 to go with the one from the previous season. Club is also the current holder of both the Broonie Quaich and the Bali Memorial Cup.

Presentation of Grand Championship Trophy by HKRU Chairman to HKFC Club Captain


Fire Ladies was the most improved team in the Section. Despite finishing mid-table the season before, Fire were promoted a league and played really well. They won 7 out of 11 matches and had a good chance of winning some silverware had the season continued. This is a true testament to the sustained efforts of the women’s players and coaches over the past few years. 

HKFC Ice and Fire Women’s Teams

Overall, our nine men and women’s teams played 98, won 74 and drew 3, scored 3,013 points, conceded 1,357, won four trophies and led three more tables.

And through it all, our teams did not forfeit a single match. Why, because our teams support each other, in our “One Club” spirit.

So many people contributed so much to the successes of this shortened season that they cannot all be mentioned. However, I will pick out a few. 

John Hickman scored a magnificent seven tries in a single game for Select.

Youth rugby continues to thrive at HKFC. We have some 350 boys and girls playing at the Colts and Youth levels and over 800 playing Mini rugby. These continue to be well organized by their respective hard working sub-committees, coaches and managers. They continue to be a valuable source of outstanding senior players, many of whom have also gone on to represent Hong Kong. 

Boys and Girls Mini & Youth Rugby

HKFC Rugby Section is well represented at all national rugby levels and has many players in the men’s and women’s Elite Player Programme and the Global Rapid Rugby squad. Of them, the following players represented Hong Kong –

  • Jamie Hood, Max Denmark, Liam Herbert, Raef Morrison, Mike Coverdale, Russell Webb all represented HK at Sevens;
  • Ben Axten-Burrett, Nate de Thierry and Mitch Andrews at Fifteens;
  • Glynn Hughes, Nate de Thierry, Campbell Wakeley, Callum McFeat-Smith, Ben Axten-Burrett for South China Tigers in Global Rapid Rugby;
  • Roshini Turner and Aileen Ryan at Women’s Fifteens;
  • Cathy Wong at U20 Sevens;
  • James Gostick at U20 Sevens;
  • Josh Daydora and Julien Borron at U18 Sevens; and
  • HKFC also has many players in the U14, U16 and U19 Age Group programmes for boys and girls.

Our Section also plays our part in the HKRU. Currently, Peter Duncan is HKRU President, while Nigel Hobler is HKRU Director of Finance, Kim Kan is Director of Women’s, Diana Li is Director General and Ben Stobart is Director of Coaching and Performance.

 

So, there you have it; a guide to the HKFC and the defining moments that made it the trailblazing club it is today. Thanks to Ian for his time and dedication to this piece, and best of luck in the upcoming season!

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