The rise or fall of a rugby club can happen quickly in the nation’s domestic competition. It can happen from one week to the next, or from season to season with players leaving after having furthered their business and professional careers in Hong Kong.
After appointing a new coach and new captain since the end of last season, and losing in the first match of this season the previous Saturday, Hong Kong Football Club has turned their form around and won their first match of the 2010–11 G4S Domestic League season.
Following their comfortable defeat over Tradition Valley Red on Saturday Oct 9, HKFC coach Rob Naylor spoke exclusively with The Epoch Times.
“We probably eased off a bit in the first 20 minutes of the second half,” Naylor said soon after their 1–5 try, 11-34 points victory over Tradition Valley Rugby Football Club’s 1st XV (Valley Red) who HKFC had defeated in last season’s nail biting premiership final.
“You could see those that were starting to get a bit of a roll on, and they scored that try. There’s little things that you’ve got to work on. Our aim is to develop as the season goes on,” he explained of his aim to get his team peaking at the end of the 14-week season, “Rather than hit our structure running first game …
“Last year we beat teams by 30 odd points in the first couple of games then we dropped off. We really wanted to ease off into the season and hit the season and gradually get that aside.“I think last week, we didn’t play to our game plan. They sort of kicked the ball down into our territory and obviously capitalized on our mistakes.
“Obviously we’ve gotten a lot better since last week,” the 35 year-old Australian-born said.
Staying in HK
Rob says he’s put his roots down in Hong Kong. The Field Art Director with Ocean Park, has been living here for 14 years. While star players may have moved back overseas after only one or two seasons of success he’s stayed – an anomaly in Hong Kong’s sporting world.
Soon after arriving, Naylor played rugby with DeA Tigers for nine years before switching across to the Hong Kong Football Club (HKFC). In those days he described how the Hong Kong Rugby 7’s team was one of the best in the world. “They won quite a few tournaments, they pushed the line with Australia and New Zealand and they beat Fiji.”
He said the standard that was at Brisbane when he left in 1996 compared closely to the local standard. And went on to explain how the transient nature of players in Hong Kong could see a team rise to the top and fall to the bottom in a matter of months.
“HKCC a few years ago were at the top of the league. They were very strong and now they are just at the bottom of the league a while. It’s very hard on them. It certainly does have an impact.”
Appointment as Coach
Naylor “hung up his boots” at the end of the 2008-9 season and took up assistant coaching. After one year’s apprenticeship under Terry Heart. He assumed the role of head-coach for the HKFC—now known by its sponsored name as Newedge Club.
As an assistant, he helped to take the team to the dais to hold up the Grand Champs Cup last season. Asked how he rated his recently played opponents in the season’s first two weeks Altus Kowloon and Valley Red, Rob said that “Valley are better…they’re a lot stronger and a lot bigger.”
HKFC Better Than Last Year?
Naylor has been playing rugby since he was four-years-old. Born in Sydney, his family moved to New Zealand soon after. At around eight his family returned to Australia where Rob played his junior rugby at Caboolture north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast. He also played in the 1st XV school rugby team at St Pauls in Brisbane.
“When I was in juniors I played on the flank, but as players eventually started catching me, I chopped and changed between scrum-half and fly-half … when I was younger, I was bigger and faster but just stopped growing,” said the powerfully-built coach who is working on his Certificate 3 in coaching.
Rob, who is “just shy of 5’10”, went on to play at the University of Queensland. After having played Under19s and 21s, in his first match at reserve-grade level, he suffered a serious arm injury that made him re-think his life.
During his recuperation from a fractured arm-socket he decided to focus on his professional and business career with a move fourteen years ago to Hong Kong.
Asked if he could take the club to back-to-back premierships, Naylor said: “At the moment we haven’t hit our straps but we have the potential to be better [than last year].”
“We need to play together more … some are still here from last year, some retired, some good ones have come.”
Naylor oversaw the HKFC Newedge Club Dragons play against Tradition Valley Black as a curtain-raiser to their 1st XV match. Both clubs field their 2nd XV in Division 1, between them they represent half of the eight teams in league, so the rivalry between the two big clubs is strong.
“The Dragons did well too last weekend and won 36-0 which was a great result,” Rob said. “It took us about 25 minutes to get some momentum but when it came we really put the nail into the coffin scoring 6 tries.”
“We will be playing DeA this weekend coming and anticipating a fairly hard game considering DeA are topping the table right now.”
After a Week 1 loss to Altus Kowloon, HKFC can put any thoughts of a shaky start to the season behind them. Their dominance and depth in Week 2 showed that they will be a force to reckon with again this year.