17 Dec 2018

The Hong Kong rugby community had two trophies to celebrate at last Saturday’s annual Asia Rugby Awards Dinner in Bangkok, which also marked the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Asia Rugby Football Union.


First the Carlson Lin Match Officiating Award went to Gabriel Lee, in recognition of her outstanding career which has lasted over a decade and included highlights such as refereeing the first ever Women’s World Cup Sevens Cup Final in 2009, the Asian Games finals in 2010 and 2014, and also refereeing at the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup, the 2013 World Cup Sevens and of course the Rio Olympics. Over the last few years she has generously become a mentor and role model to the next generation of Hong Kong refs, as well as still turning out at all levels wherever she can help. The Asia Rugby Award will join a packed mantelpiece of medals and trophies, and Gabby is also a member of the HKRU Hall of Fame.

Also picking up some silverware was local charity Operation Breakthrough, which won the Asia Rugby Award for Character. 

Breakthrough is run by current and former police officers and uses sport as a means to help, rehabilitate and positively reinforce values in young people in our community, helping them to develop into responsible and positive thinking adults.

Operation Breakthrough provides a wide spectrum of 10 different sports, and the Rugby section was set up in November 2003. The coaching, delivered by volunteer police instructors and professional coaches, teaches participants the importance of teamwork, trust, respect for others and discipline. Participants who demonstrate themselves to be either talented or devoted to their activities are rewarded with Outward Bound courses during which they are encouraged to develop their personal qualities.

Over the years the work of Breakthrough has been recognised a number of times, including the 2012 Community Programme of the Year Award at the International Rugby Expo in London, and in March 2005 Breakthrough was accepted by the Laureus World Sports Foundation as one of their "Sport for Good" projects; since then the programme has been visited by a number of Laureus Academy members and sporting legends including Edwin Moses, Mark Spitz, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Sir Bobby Charlton and Sean Fitzpatrick.  


There have been a number of success stories on and off the sports field for Breakthrough graduates, including 24 boys who are now serving police officers, 1 social worker and a number of Community Rugby Coaches working with the HKRU.  The HKRU also co-operates with Breakthrough on an Apprentice programme, which gives 4 graduates of the scheme each year an opportunity to work full time for 12 months in the Community Department.


Over the years a number of Breakthrough boys have gone on to win Hong Kong national representative honours at age grade level, and at the 2017 Asia Rugby Sevens Series Fong Kit-fung became the first to win a senior national cap.  There are currently 3 graduates on full time professional rugby contracts at the Hong Kong Sports Institute.


There has been strong support for Breakthrough from throughout the rugby community – the Police Rugby Club have of course been an important part of the success, but equally Valley, Hong Kong Scottish, HKFC and Kowloon Rugby Clubs have all contributed over the years in various ways, and in turn Breakthrough players have gone on to represent many different clubs in the community.


Finally, a number of Breakthrough graduates were among the group who started the Pandas Rugby Club in their home town of Tin Shui Wai, an area once referred to as Hong Kong’s “City of Sorrow” - the club has become a thriving hub in the community, with 3 men’s teams and a women’s team.


Operation Breakthrough is generously supported by Standard Chartered, Ageas, Friends of Asia and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation - for more information please visit www.breakthrough.hk


On behalf of the HKRU and the whole rugby community congratulations to both Gabriel and Steve Tarrant and the Breakthrough team for their very well deserved recognition.