19 May 2020

Hong Kong rugby is blessed with numerous champions of the game, and sadly this year we say Noho Ora Mai to Deano, one of the greatest. After 25 years in the Fragrant Harbour, Deano has made the tough decision to relocate back to his home country, New Zealand, leaving a big hole in our rugby community.

Deano classifies his time in Hong Kong as a highlight of both his and his family’s life, his list of memories and indeed achievements proves just that. Arriving in 1996, Deano began his Hong Kong Rugby career here at the Union, working alongside George Simpkin on the introduction of rugby into the local community and China. Alongside George and KK Chiu, the results of their tireless efforts can be seen today with more than 50% of Hong Kong rugby players drawn from the local community.

Deano had an illustrious playing career with Valley and the Hong Kong national team (15s rather than 7s, in case you were wondering), whilst his Coaching accolades span Hong Kong A, Hong Kong Development, Women’s & schools plus Valley RFC Prems and the Penguins. Later he moved to the business end of the game through his roles as Valley & Valley Fort CCO, GM and DOR. 

We caught up with Deano over in New Zealand on his most memorable moments (of which there are, as you can imagine, plenty!)

  • In his playing years, Deano’s personal highlight was his first Hong Kong cap vs Japan (topped with a win!) plus an almighty year of wins for Hong Kong 15s Pacific Rim against Japan, USA & Canada
  • Moving to the coaching set up, the Valley RFC 2012 season stands out, in which the team entered the play-offs at a rank of 5th, following a tough season with many injuries, yet showed the club culture and pulled it back to win the Grand Finals that year
  • From 2012, Valley Prems then achieved six consecutive Grand Championship wins, an achievement unheard of throughout HK Premiership history
  • The Valley RFC women’s set-up is also a highlight for Deano, who contributed to their magnificent winning streak of over 50+ games

Not only is Deano extremely successful in the top end of the game, but ensured excellence ran throughout all pathways, and the Valley Fort graduates now playing in the Premiership squad prove just that.

Reflecting on Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Rugby set-up, Deano is proud to have been a significant part of the development and enjoys reminiscing on how far we’ve come. Looking back at the ‘dust bowl’ that was King’s Park and Happy Valley, now boasting 3G artificial turf is just one example. He remarked that the professional development of coaching, resources and opportunities all add to the lure of Hong Kong as one of the most attractive locations to live and play rugby.

We asked Deano if there were any individuals in particular he’d like to acknowledge, and again, as suspected, the shoutouts were copious;

  • First up, Deano’s two daughters, Kea & Jordan, stalwarts of the game in Hong Kong, who also benefitted from a lifetime of memories and friends whilst living here
  • Neil Alton (former Hong Kong & Valley player plus Hautapu RFC teammate) who originally contacted Deano and persuaded him to try Hong Kong ‘for a season’(!)
  • Of course, George Simpkin gets a shout out, a huge credit to Hong Kong Rugby and to Deano’s time here
  • A few of the ‘originals’, Toby Bland, Tom Hall, Roddy Mac, Stuart Khron, Jamie Scott, Paul Deayton and Flemo, who made Deano’s intro to Hong Kong and Valley so seamless
  • The mighty Valley RFC; Nick Hewson, Mark Fatialofa, Andrew Kelly, alongside the various Chairmen, players, management, official, medical and supporters
  • Big shout out to Classified Happy Valley and Happy Valley Bar & Grill, his ‘unofficial office’
  • And finally to Carmel, Aaron, Amanda, Becky, Robin & Sandra, close friends and family who ‘kept him on track outside of rugby’!

So, what will he miss most about Hong Kong? The people, the city that never sleeps, the hustle and bustle, and of course… the Hong Kong Football Club towels!

Deano, thanks for everything you’ve done for Hong Kong Rugby. You’ll be greatly missed, and we look forward to seeing you back in the city for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens in October (as you’ve only missed one to date, would be rude not to!)