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The big leagues: DB Pirates enjoy sporting success

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Sport in DB is in good health, as the recent successes of the DB Pirates go to show. Henry Benjamin reports.

Discovery Bay’s biggest sports club, the DB Pirates is having an increasing impact on the Hong Kong rugby scene, with a total of seven current or ex-Pirates selected in the Hong Kong squad for the recent men’s World Rugby U20 Trophy in Uruguay.

The group, which made up more than a quarter of the 26-man squad, included current Pirates Jake Barlow, Zak Baldwin, Mikkel Christensen and Lachie Oliver- Kirby, as well ex-Pirates Austin Robertshaw, Mark Coebergh and James Karton.

Focusing on basic skills

Pirates’ committee member Phillip Baldwin, who represents the Pirates on the Hong Kong Rugby Union’s colts committee, says the selection acknowledges the emphasis the club puts on fostering talent.

“It shows how, despite being a small club, the Pirates has a great coaching set up,” he says. “It shows the younger players that the club can help them develop their rugby potential. Hopefully it will inspire the younger players, and we can build the club into a major force at all levels from minis to youth to seniors.”

It’s not only the boys who are thriving in the national age-grade scene, with Discovery College (DC) students Flo Symonds and Anjalika Ybema representing Hong Kong in the girl’s Sevens at the Sanix World Rugby Youth Invitational Tournament in Japan in April.

“We’ve always focused on the basic skills,” Phillip says. “The secret to success is no secret at all really. Becoming extraordinary means doing the ordinary things excellently. Do the simple things well. That’s why we focus so much on basic skills, working hard and having fun.

“Youth and mini rugby player development is not about winning leagues and cups but teaching the players to do the 100 things that help them win,” Phillip adds. “If they focus on the process then the scoreboard will take care of itself.”

Leading the charge to improve

Hong Kong had an up-and-down tournament in Uruguay, losing all four of its matches to finish eighth out of eight teams. However, a close loss to eventual finalists Portugal showed that the Hong Kong players were not too far off the mark.

Mikkel, Lachie, Zak and Jake played in the forwards and Austin, Mark and James in the backs, highlighting the all-encompassing nature of the Pirates’ development pathways.

Mikkel, one of the youngest in the squad at just 17, Lachie, Jake,  Austin and James all attended Discovery Bay International School (DBIS), while Zak had stints at both DBIS and DC. Mark, who captained the side and is part of the full-time senior Hong Kong set- up along with James, attended YMCA of Hong Kong Christian College in Tung Chung.

The current group is the latest in a swag of talented players produced by the Pirates since the club was established in 2003, and Phillip sees even bigger and better things in the future.

“We have a great set up and will continue to grow as a club,” he says. “That rugby and sport in general in DB is in good health and that the Pirates are leading the charge to improve, says the potential is even greater than the present.

“It helps that DB is a very sporty place,” Phillip adds. “But it’s a shame we don’t have a full-size sports pitch. Imagine what we could achieve? We were promised one but it’s never materialised. It would complete the jigsaw in terms of sporting infrastructure in DB and be of enormous benefit to schools, sports clubs and the entire community, as well as a huge draw for people to become residents.”

Success breeds success

Phillip is confident the talent coming through will translate to senior success for the club, with its top side currently in the third tier of the senior set-up and coached by former Fiji international Deacon Manu.

“Success breeds success, and we have a great group of players coming through,” Phillip says. “The Pirates proves that you don’t have to be a massive club to nurture talent, but you do need the right set up.”

More importantly, Phillip says, the Pirates will continue striving to be a club where everybody feels welcome. “We’re incredibly proud of all our players no matter what level they achieve,” he says. “As a community club, we welcome everyone no matter whether they have played previously or not.”

Noting that rugby is first and foremost a game for all, Phillip concludes: “While we have a great crop who have attained national age-group status and will hopefully serve to inspire others to attain this high standard, what really matters is for the kids to give it a go and enjoy their rugby and other sports.”

Image: DB Pirates

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