11 Sep 2018

Last weekend saw the inaugural HKRU Women and Girls’ Rugby Conference hosted at Olympic House. The two day event saw an impressive range of professionals and experts involved in the women’s game giving talks, presentations and practical coaching sessions to young budding athletes, parents, coaches and managers alike. Speakers focused on what it takes to be a successful rugby player and showcased the fantastic growth and popularity of the women’s game around the world.


Day one kicked off with an introduction by Samantha Feausi, Head of Women’s Rugby Development. No stranger to the rugby pitch, Feausi is a former captain of both the National 7s and XVs team and knows how much hard work and dedication is required to perform at a high level. Feausi was followed by the conference’s key speaker, Jamie Wong Wan Yiu, a former Hong Kong National Cyclist and two time Asian Games medalist. Wong told her inspirational story of resilience of when she fell off her bike at the 2014 Asian Games, only to painfully clamber back on with a broken rib, and power her way across the finish line to get a bronze medal. Her speech left a deep impression on the audience about how much raw passion and commitment it takes to be an elite athlete and taught them a lesson in never giving up.


Other speakers on day one of the conference included Karen Lo, a sports psychologist and former HK National team swimmer, who delivered a powerful presentation on the power of the mind and the importance of overcoming mental challenges that athletes face in high pressure situations and games. HKRU physiotherapist, Amanda O’ Reilly spoke about injury prevention in the women’s game and what players can do to reduce their chances of getting injured. HKRU Strength and Conditioning Coach, Bella Milo was also on hand to discuss the importance of following an appropriate S&C programme to ensure girls put themselves in top physical condition to take on the physical nature of the sport.


Lisa Tarquini was another notable speaker at the event, presenting on nutrition and the need for rugby players to follow a healthy balanced diet to enhance performance. As Sports Nutrition Monitoring Manager at The Hong Kong Sports Institute, Tarquini deals with Hong Kong’s top athletes on a daily basis and her message was clear: “Eating for performance is about eating a balanced diet and not following the newest fad diet. Following crazy diets that eliminate certain foods can be detrimental to performance.”


Day one finished with a panel talk led by current Hong Kong National player and producer for VICE News Tonight on HBO, Laurel Chor. Chor led a panel of Christy Cheng, Captain of the HK 7s team; Alicia Lui, Founder of Women in Sport Empowerment; Karen Lo, Sports Psychologist; and Chris Garvey, Founder of Habitual. The discussion explored the challenges, needs and opportunities for female participation in sport and the subtle differences between the genders. 


Day two was led by Steve Jones, HKRU Coach Education Development Manager, and demonstrated the more practical side of the game. An open coaching clinic and skill development workshop for players from mini rugby level up to senior level gave participants the chance to put into practice everything they had learned from the day before. Not only was the workshop beneficial to the aspiring players, but also parents got to partake in the games and join their daughters in the training sessions and emerging coaches were able to learn from Jones’ experienced coaching practice.

Another highlight event was the Sunday morning training session between the Hong Kong National Women’s XVs Team and the University of Northumbria  team who were in Hong Kong for a weekend training camp.  After learning how much training and devotion goes in to reaching a high level of rugby, participants could watch in awe as our Hong Kong ladies battled the strong university team who posed a very physical threat. After the session, the two teams hosted a Q & A session where conference participants were able to quiz them on their lifestyle choices and training routines as athletes.


The weekend was a huge success for women’s rugby in Hong Kong, and showcased just how much the game has progressed in the last decade and how serious Hong Kong is about developing it further. The HKRU hope to make the women’s conference a bi-annual fixture on the Hong Kong rugby calendar, creating an opportunity for all those involved in the game to benefit from the wealth of knowledge and experience brought by the professionals.