Rugby has always been a huge part of Sam Feausi’s life. Her father was one of the founding members of Valley RFC, so she naturally grew up with rugby all around her. She was thirteen when Womens rugby was introduced to Hong Kong. “They had no rules back then, so I was able to play senior rugby when I was 15” she laughs, recalling her days of playing for Valley and the Hong Kong 7’s and 15’s team. Sam was able to develop her skills after moving abroad and playing rugby in New Zealand and England. She then moved back in 2008 where she continued to represent Hong Kong, going on to captain the Hong Kong 7’s and 15’s team.
Unfortunately a knee injury in 2014 put her out of playing. So when the Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) started to place more efforts into growing women’s rugby, Sam became Head of Women’s Rugby Development.
“Myself and Jo Hull, head of performance, were the first people in Asia to have roles that were solely dedicated to women’s rugby at their Unions, and globally we were the 2nd or 3rd union ever.”
In her role as Head of Women’s Rugby Development, Sam and her team focus on ensuring there is opportunity across all levels for women and girls either as players, coaches, referees, continue to develop leadership roles for women, and develop grassroots-level rugby.
“We need women in positions of influence and decision making, in order to get the funding and support for developing womens rugby”
Sam says that some of the reasons women don’t step into leadership roles is that they don’t know that these roles exist or they lack confidence in their own knowledge of the sport.
“You gotta get guts! Say your thoughts!”
Sam wants to get more women into leadership positions by offering opportunities to continue a career in rugby after retirement.
The influence of women’s rugby development can already be felt. This year HKRU had 28 women sign up for the level 2 coaching course, more than doubling the retention of the last five years combined.
Whether that’s on the board of HKRU, or as a coach, or a referee, these roles create more examples for young girls to look up to.
Sam has been cleverly marketing rugby to mothers, to encourage their daughters to gain confidence and develop resilience. As we know from our previous interviews with Adela and Vivienne sports is genuinely a way in which their daughters can develop these skills.
And it’s working. By teaming up in November with InspiringHK Sports Foundation, a rugby clinic was hosted for girls and over a hundred girls signed up to learn how to play the sport.
‘The most important part of growing rugby is that it needs to be inclusive’
If rugby wants to continue to grow in Hong Kong, it must be a part of the Hong Kong culture. “Now the womens team is about 80% local players” beams Sam.
The Hong Kong Women’s Team will need to play in more international games and competitions if it is ever to become a contender on the world stage. However, very few countries around Hong Kong are at the same level of play for women’s rugby.
“Not many womens U19 teams are established enough to play against us”
In August 2020 the HKRU will be hosting a conference to celebrate women’s rugby. The main objective of the conference is to bring together like minded individuals that are passionate about growing and developing the women’s and girls game. It would be great to share best practice with other Unions or even other sports to show that there are many different roles and opportunities that you can take in sport as a woman.
Sam Feausi is a pioneer. She was there at the early stages of women’s rugby in Hong Kong, and over the years she has been a huge advocate for equality, and growing the game so it can truly be a sport for all. The development of women’s rugby in Hong Kong is in safe hands.