21st Dec 2016

This year the Prudential New Year’s Day Youth Tournament celebrates its 50th anniversary, and to mark this momentous milestone we will be running a special feature every Wednesday over the next 6 weeks.

Read as some of our international stars, past and present, share the memories of their own New Year’s Day experiences as we look back on five decades of rugby history… This week, current Hong Kong international siblings Rowan and Lindsay Varty, and their father Paul.

Paul Varty 1970 1971 1972

These were big games back then as we virtually never played against overseas opposition. The HK team was made up mainly of KGV students plus some rough lads from the Army school. The UK Schoolboys, as they were known, always seemed bigger and better than us and normally won but I think it was 1st Jan 1972 when I captained the HK side and we managed a very worthy draw! We were delighted and it felt like a monumental victory. I remember partying at HKFC and in Wanchai into the early hours and having to take a walla walla back to Kowloon where I lived as the Star Ferry has stopped for the night -and of course there was no MTR or cross harbour tunnel in this days!

Lindsay Varty2002 2003 2004 2005

The New Year's Day tournament was always the rugby highlight of the year for me (after going to the Rugby 7s of course). We had played all year for our club teams (in my case, the Kai Tak Tigers) and it was culmination of all our effort and hard work to get selected for the big show down between Kowloon and HK Island, or Dragons v Tigers or whatever it was, it didn't matter, it was our chance to play rugby in front of a crowd of people. I remember being given my first NYD jersey, a 'one size fits all' parachute type thing which I tucked it into my oversized shorts so it wouldn't billow in the wind too much and I was incredibly happy. my family were so happy for me too and never missed a single match of mine at NYD. We couldn't go on holiday over christmas for years because they knew what that tournament meant for me!

None of us had been playing rugby for very long and the women's rugby scene was still very fresh in Hong Kong, so I can't imagine the standard of rugby was great but to us, it was the World Cup! I remember my parents would always be there at 8 in the morning on New Years Day cheering me on- they still come to all my matches now for Hong Kong, and have even acquired a huge Hong Kong flag that they wave while screaming my name (very embarrassing but also very sweet of them!)

My fondest memory of playing at the NYD tournament was when I was 16, and the ball came loose from the opposition's ruck and bounced fortuitously right into my hands. I saw my moment and ran the entire length of the pitch to score our wining try. I remember being so happy holding the trophy with all my friends and team mates around me and knowing for sure that rugby would be a huge part of my life for years to come. I also love this moment because two of my team mates from that day were Colleen Tjosvold and Aggie Poon, who I still play rugby with today. Rugby in Hong Kong is more than just a sport, it's a family that just keeps growing!

Rowan Varty 1999-2005

I’m happy to see that the tradition of the New Year's Day Youth Rugby Tournament is alive and well after 50 years. In my years as a participant, I was lucky enough to be part of a “Peninsula” team representing the clubs on Kowloon side in the early years, and later in a victorious Hong Kong team against the hitherto mighty Overseas.

However, my lasting memories of the NYD tournament are more to do with the people I met rather than the matches we played. For me, the NYD Tournament became synonymous with the Christmas holiday break, as it provided a social focal point to catch up with old friends and meet new people through your involvement with a team that was playing on the day. This was especially true once most of my mates and I left Hong Kong for university, and returned to Hong Kong for the holidays.

I first got to know Mark Wright through playing in the Hong Kong under 19’s team on New Years day. I met Wrighty at training up at Kings Park, and he told me that our team was rubbish and would probably lose (we did). Wrighty was our scrum half and kicked goals for us. I have since been lucky enough to play with Wrighty here in Hong Kong for over 10 years, and in Japan. If he can hold on a little longer then I am sure we will go to our 4th Asian Games together in the hope of finally winning gold.

Another longstanding teammate of mine, Keith Robertson, was often on the the opposite team on New Years Day, as he was a Hong Kong kid whereas I grew up in Kowloon. Back then it was “Island v. Peninsula”, and that usually meant being on the losing team as Keith stole the show. It wasn’t until we graduated to under 19’s that I finally got to play on the same side as him on New Years day. Needless to say we won that one. Keith is and will remain the best 7’s player I have played with or against.

For most of the guys I played with and against, the NYD Tournament and its build up was a spectacle rivalled only by the Hong Kong Sevens. It was also a family day for me, with my sister Lindsay playing and my parents inevitably watching, as they continue to do at almost every game I play in today.

Congratulations on 50 years of the New Years Day Youth Rugby Tournament, long may it continue!