GUNNY HEADS BACK TO SCHOOL

01 Sep 2020


Last Friday Stuart “Gunny” Gunn brought his 14 years of dedicated service to the Union to a close, as he starts a new chapter as a teacher at a local school for students with special educational needs.

 

His Hong Kong story began back in 2006 when he arrived on an exchange programme from Hartpury College, and then returned for another year in 2008…whether he had fallen in love with Hong Kong, the Union, or a certain women’s national team player is hard to say, but he’s been here ever since.  In his time with the Union he has been a Club Coaching Officer, our Inclusive Child Welfare Officer, and for the past two years our Community Inclusive Participation Manager, looking after our sport-for-change programmes under the HKRU Community Foundation.  He has played for Causeway Bay, HKCC, Police, Disciplined Services and Hong Kong Scottish, and enjoyed a brief career as rapper Tommy Gunn, performing on a tram.

 

His eyes were first opened to the power of sport to change lives when he joined an Operation Breakthrough tour to Cambodia in 2007, and he has remained heavily involved with both Breakthrough rugby and boxing ever since, taking great pride in watching the participants mature and grow into young men and women making their own positive contributions to society.


Fast forward to May 2014 and Gunny found himself on a month-long secondment to the Laos Rugby Union, preparing their national team for their Asian Division 3 competition against China, Indonesia and Guam. Here he was inspired by the passion and commitment of these players, despite minimal resources, giving their all in every match, right to the final whistle.  He also fondly recalls his first experience riding a motorbike there, taught by one of team props, with ‘about 3 words of English and a 15 minute lesson’ before he was sent on his way heading up the highway!

 

Gunny has also become synonymous with the HKRUCF Deaf Rugby team, and one of the highlights of his time with the Union was the 2018 Hong Kong Deaf Team tour to Sydney, where they participated in the first ever World Deaf Rugby Sevens competition. Gunny remembers his amazement at how quickly players from around the world were able to translate each other’s sign-language and bond over a mutual love of rugby, and how proud he was of the Hong Kong team’s ‘never-say-die’ attitude even as they came up against much bigger and stronger players.

 

Building on relations forged in Sydney, Gunny then brought the Japan Deaf Team to Hong Kong in 2019. He remarks that their nickname, ‘Quiet Typhoon’, turned out to be very apt as they only just managed to squeeze in their third match before a T10 hit Hong Kong forcing a delay to the after-match function! The Deaf Rugby programme is now one of the longest running programmes within the Community Foundation, and a great tribute to Gunny and his predecessor Craig Wilson. 

 


Gunny also met his wife, Christy Cheng, the former Hong Kong national team captain, through his work at the Union, and that took him to the Women’s Rugby World Cup in Ireland in 2017, sat in the stands with a Guinness proudly watching her break her elbow, yet refusing to give up for another 20 minutes before finally being substituted off the pitch!

 

Gunny has been at the heart of the Union and the Hong Kong rugby community ever since he stepped off the plane back in 2006, and there are many thousands of youngsters whose lives have been positively impacted through his hard work and dedication.  In his farewell speech he was typically generous and recorded his thanks to Robbie McRobbie, Rambo Leung, and Brandon Huang. In his own words, ‘These three have been the heart and soul of Hong Kong Rugby, and their passion for the sport is unquestionable. They’ve been fantastic role-models for so many people, and I’m grateful to be able to call them my friends.

 

We often talk about the power of sport to change lives, but in fact sport is just a tool – it is special people like Gunny who really change lives; on behalf of Hong Kong rugby, thanks Gunny, good luck, we’ll miss you!

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