An interview with Sarah Monaghan, General Manager of Hong Kong Scottish RFC

13th Aug 2020

  • Tell us the story behind the Hong Kong Scottish logo?

We share our badge and colours (blue, white and red) with our sister club, London Scottish RFC as a mark of our relationship. Our colours also match the Hong Kong and Scottish flags! The "lion rampant" is from the Royal Standard of Scotland (the red and yellow flag) so easily recognised by Scots worldwide...including Scottish football supporters!

  • Can you give us a brief history of Hong Kong Scottish?

In 2010 Roy Kinnear, Peter Reed and Robbie McRobbie suggested we form a working group to partner with the Nomads RFC and create a 6th Premiership team. There were a number of key individuals who worked tirelessly to make this possible, including Jason Collelo (original Chairman), Craig Wilson (original Head Coach), Jacky Hui, Stephen Dowse, and John Bruce (as well as Roy, Peter and Robbie). We approached Stewart Saunders to be our Chairman and Dave Bruce to be our first Finance Director and that was when momentum grew. Then followed our first General Manager, Dave Whiteford. More momentum. Hong Kong Scottish was born.

In April 2011 we played our first match at the world-famous Melrose Rugby Sevens – the birthplace of Rugby Sevens. The club entered into the domestic Premiership Division for the 2011/12 season as the 6th Men’s Premiership team.

In 2013 we launched our first Women’s rugby team (the Kukris) as a joint venture between Hong Kong Scottish and Flying Kukris to help create a pathway from junior to senior women’s rugby. It took us a couple of seasons to really gain some momentum - and players(!) - but, with the help of Head Coach Kei Tam, we now have a thriving women’s rugby section.

  • What differentiates Hong Kong Scottish from other rugby clubs in Hong Kong?

Our club culture - we realised early that if we established the club culture and everything round about it without focusing only on the playing side then that would be our USP. We never paid the most or had fancy facilities but people wanted to be a part of the club.

Direction – from an early stage everyone was pulling in the same direction and there have been seamless transitions through GMs from Dave Whiteford, to Bryan Rennie and now Sarah Monaghan. The same can be said with Chairman as we went from Jason Collelo, to Stewart Saunders, then Dave Bruce and now Roy Kinnear. Everyone has the club at their heart and want to leave it in a better place than it was when they started.

Throughout, Hammo (Craig Hammond) has been the constant as coach and helps to engrain the culture into everyone as they arrive. The hard work he puts in across all teams, and his presence is something you never want to lose. The Club song written by Will Tuffley, who had only been at the club a week, was also something that set us apart. Hearing that sang at The Rock in front of the supporters is the best feeling!

We established The Rock as a place that other teams dreaded coming to as they didn’t know where it was – we really put Shek Kip Mei on the map! But they loved post-game as we made so much effort to keep people there from all the teams. That tradition still exists today.


Apart from our people - our brand of hospitality, our style of delivery to members and our ability to merge the playing side with the commercial side when appropriate. Every player knows someone from our Board and vice versa and that helps create a good club environment. This has been enhanced by the success of our women’s rugby teams as well as our Netball and Football sections. We are unique because we have achieved this with no facilities to attract and retain members and players. We don’t have big budgets, but we do have big hearts and big personalities.

Most of all we have ambition.

  • What are Hong Kong Scottish’s Greatest Achievements?

Getting through our 1st season (2011-12) would have to be up there. In future years there was planning/budgeting to consider, along with a view on how we would grow the club, but that initial season was about dealing with what we had and getting on with things. People played with injuries and dragged themselves through games. People like Steve Jones would crawl off the pitch having never stopped and that helped set what the club was going to be all about – ignoring the resources and punching above our weight. We won a lot of games through sheer will and passion which you can’t coach. People wanted to win as a group.

Another was our Bravehearts winning their Grand Final in Year 2 (2012-13). Mark Jones and Jacky Hui pulled together a group of players who were predominantly new to rugby and achieved the first success for the club. Everyone from across the teams turned up with their club gear and kilts on to cheer them on, as Alan Wong kicked the points from 2nd row to win it! Very proud day which everyone celebrated long into the night!

More recently, our men’s 1st XV reaching the Grand Championship final in 2019 and just losing in the final few minutes (mixed emotions but a great achievement from everyone involved)! The same season saw our Bravehearts team win their Grand Final and our women’s Kukris team winning their playoff to gain promotion into the KPMG Women’s Premiership, so the season definitely finished on a high!

Finally, an area of the club that we focused on since the start that we should be immensely proud of is our community programme with the support of Edinburgh Napier University and then KPMG. We often thought in the beginning that being based at Shek Kip Mei would stunt our development, but it actually ended up being our biggest opportunity. As a Premiership club we had the chance to help communities that weren’t being exposed to rugby and gain players along the way whilst working with large corporates to deliver meaningful projects that still exist today.

  • What are your most memorable moments off the pitch?

The end of season dinner every year! It never fails to deliver and is the one event that no one wants to miss as it has all the teams from each sport in the club.

We have also held a number of successful life member lunches, but one that really stands out is the Sir Ian McGeechan lunch. You could hear a pin drop - which is almost unheard of with 300+ rugby folk in a room!

  • Anything special Hong Kong Scottish have been doing this year to mark the 10 years anniversary?

Yes, there is a lot planned and it’s going to be an exciting year!

We are running ‘Talking Ten’ monthly interviews with some of the key people who helped launch and grow Hong Kong Scottish. For our longstanding members it’s a trip down memory lane and for newer members provides a real insight into the history of the club. So far we’ve heard from stalwarts Stewart Saunders, Roy (Bananas) Kinnear and Dave Whiteford - and heard some interesting stories along the way! This will continue throughout our 10th year! Have a read - https://hongkongscottish.com/club-news/

We are launching our new pop up clubhouse - The Red Lion (when covid allows). We’ve always been ‘Nomads’, so it’s fitting we have a home we can pack up and take around with us wherever we play!

We are also partnering up with the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and excited to incorporate his famous tartan in our 2020-21 Tsunami kit designs, featuring our 10th anniversary logo. Our shop is now live and 50% proceeds go directly to Doddie’s Foundation - https://hkscottish.tsunami-sport.com/

Finally, we plan to run a number of celebratory events as soon as we can! In the meantime, we’ll have to continue to make full use of Zoom :-)