04 Jul 2017


As Rev Bill Robertson starts his well-earned retirement, the man who re-started the rugby programme at Diocesan Boys’ School reflects on the challenges and triumphs of the past decade…

When I arrived in Diocesan Boys’ School in 2008,as Warden and Chaplain, I wondered why rugby wasn’t included in the list of sports played in the school. When I asked, a teacher who had taught there for a long time, told me that it had been played before but had stopped in the early sixties when the master –in-charge left.

I started to explore the possibility of re-starting rugby and with the Headmaster, Terence Chang’s, full support I called a meeting of boys who might be interested in starting rugby. About the same time I happened to meet two DBS ‘old boys’, brothers Conrad and Sheldon Wong who played rugby and wanted to see it back on the sports list. They encouraged me to contact the Hong Kong Rugby Union to see if some practical help could be offered. Robbie McRobbie, the then Head of Rugby Development for HKRU, got back to me very quickly and in no time we had two weekly sessions of training established, run by coaches, provided free of charge by the Union.

At first the number of boys who said they were interested was over 30 and I really thought we were ‘off to a flying start’. However, my early optimism was shattered, when I discovered two facts,

  • 1. Some masters-in-charge of other sports were threatening their players with suspension if they dared to join the rugby squad.
  • 2. Some parents, fearing that their sons would suffer serious injury, banned their sons from playing or training.

The first of these obstacles I had to deal with ‘face on’ by challenging the said sports masters about their unethical practices. I pointed out that it was unfair to blackmail the students who were interested in rugby. Gradually boys found that they were able to do more than one sport along with rugby. Another factor which helped dispel the myth of rugby being a dangerous sport, was when we began to find athletes and team players in other sports suffering broken ankles and arms, while our rugby players remained uninjured. Parents began to realize that rugby wasn’t as dangerous after all.

Gradually the beginnings of a team began to emerge and we had our first 7s tournament among the so called ‘Elite Schools’ We didn’t win of course but the team enjoyed the thrill of competing and began to look forward to training more intensely.

One other drawback which we experienced in the early years was the rapid turnover in coaches, who changed every year and sometimes from term to term. They were almost always English speaking coaches with no Cantonese and were only in Hong Kong for a year or so. I asked the Rugby Union if we could have a long-stay coach who spoke Cantonese and they agreed. Michael Fung arrived and things really began to change. The players respected and listened to what he had to say. They trusted his advice and they followed it.

Over the years, success and failure have been constant companions. As boys move from C to B and B to A grade, the quality and skills of each team vary from year to year. Sometimes our best players leave for schools overseas. We lost one of our ‘stars’ to Harrow in England on a Rugby Scholarship! We have won a lot of silverware over the past 8 years but one title eluded us – the All Hong Kong A Grade Championship – until this year 2017, when we grabbed the title in May.

As I retire from my post here in DBS, I know that rugby is in a healthy state and will be taken forward by the new M- i-C, Chris Percy.

Bill Robertson

Our thanks to Bill for all his contribution to Hong Kong rugby, and best wishes for a long, happy and healthy retirement!