23rd Dec 2022

The recent international rugby match series between Hong Kong and Kazakhstan was a seminal moment for Hong Kong women’s rugby given it was the first competitive opportunities for Team Hong Kong since 2019.

The series was made possible by the exclusive sponsorship of The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), as one of the many initiatives supported by the HKJC's approved donation of HK$630 million to the Government of the HKSAR to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the HKSAR, demonstrating that the HKJC is resolute in pursuing its purpose of acting continuously for the betterment of our society, all in support of creating stronger communities together. The result of the two-match series also underscored the resolute strength of Hong Kong women’s rugby community despite the ravages of the pandemic, which side-lined the women’s team for much of the past three years. Despite being one of the last teams to return to international rugby competition globally, Hong Kong swept Kazakhstan with a 31-17 win at Siu Sai Wan Stadium on 10 December, followed by a dramatic last-second win, 14-12, at Hong Kong Football Club on 18 December.

The results helped to make up for the many disappointments encountered by the team and its players, including missing out on the opportunity to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand after travel complications prevented Hong Kong from competing in the regional qualification process. That pain was felt even more keenly given the fact that in 2017 the women’s team became the first representative team in the 70-year history of the Hong Kong Rugby Union to qualify for a fifteen-a-side Rugby World Cup – and the fact that Kazakhstan participated in Hong Kong’s stead, falling to Colombia at the penultimate stage. After such a long lay-off between international games the team’s return to play this month was guided by a simple slogan: “Find Our Way”.  

The newfound direction was evident in the emotional scenes surrounding the return of Hong Kong’s top women’s players to the international stage - and the two emphatic wins under Hong Kong’s first ever ethnic Chinese head coach of a representative fifteens team, Chan Leong-sze. The fact that those milestones came in front of thousands of spectators in-stadium and across the global livestream broadcast– shows that the path is now clear for Hong Kong to re-emerge and show the rugby world its true potential. After the opening series win, Hong Kong shot to its highest ever place in the rankings at 15th in the world - just three places behind the top-ranked Asian team, Japan; but for team co-captain Lee Ka-shun the true importance of the results lies much closer to home. 

“The team is very thankful to The Hong Kong Jockey Club for its support. It is amazing to play again after such a long time, but this is just the first step for us and now we can look forward with confidence to future games.” Fellow team leader Natasha Olson-Thorne also spoke about the impact of the series on the entire women’s rugby community saying, “We are always reaching for the goal of another world cup, but it was hugely important for us to just play, and in front of our local crowds. It always gives you an extra boost to run out in front of your friends and family, but also to inspire the young girls in the crowd. They may be looking at us and saying ‘I want to be out there one day.’”

Hong Kong head coach Chan Leong-sze also recognised the HKJC and the Hong Kong Rugby Union for the support saying, “After these victories, the girls will believe in themselves even more. We deserved those opportunities and those wins. It was incredible to have these moments come in front of our home audience after such a long time. “Hopefully it can inspire more girls to want to play for Team Hong Kong,” she added.