What kids and communities get out of rugby…

dav

dav

After nearly five years as Technical Director of the Singapore Rugby Union, former Tongan rugby captain and Super Rugby star, Inoke Afeaki, has departed Singapore for pastures new.

Inoke was born in Tonga but moved with his family to Wellington in New Zealand when he was young.

He’s played for the Wellington Lions, the Hurricanes in the international Super 14 competition, moved to Japan in 1997 to play for Secom and later played for Ricoh Rugby Club before moving to Wales to join the Scarlets. He’s representation Grenoble and later signed for Saint Etienne in 2009. In 2003 he captained Tonga in the Rugby World Cup.

Inoke ‘s father and uncle are both former Tongan internationals and when he captained Tonga in the 2003 Rugby World Cup his younger brother Stan was part of the team.

As him and his family leave Singapore, Inoke talks to the SCC Rugby Academy. We asked him what kids really get out of playing rugby.

Well, rugby is one of these wonderful sports that the British knew quite early on represented a template of their community. It allows for different sizes, I am tall and lanky and so my job is to jump and catch the ball. So there are specific roles for different people of different sizes and skill set. It can involve the whole community.

In the professional game you really have to be a super athlete, that’s fine but only about one percent of the playing population can be that, the rest are average people who are pretty mad to get out there and bump their bodies about and risk injury but that is the nature of the sport. It’s more about working together and building relationships. Teams that have better relationships among themselves are the ones who usually win.

A great team should have great relationships; it’s like a show of the strength of the community. In New Zealand there is no real class system, if you are good and you want to learn then it gave people like myself, as an immigrant to the country, a footing into society. I managed to be a young immigrant who survived a bit of racial taunting, and that does exist, but once people appreciate you are good at something they accept you. The game allows outsiders to blend in. Rugby is a template for any community.

You’ve been Technical Director of the Singapore Rugby Union for nearly five years, what have you got out of the role?

It’s been a lot of work over the last few years here but it’s been good and I have learned a lot in the process. I came over here as almost like a young coach and the coaching side has been tough. I’ve played rugby in many different countries, countries that have pretty disorganised grassroots rugby and national teams, to countries like New Zealand, obviously one of the best in the world.

I have a good grasp of where Singapore is, in terms of its rugby. There are so many variables to consider before you can get that momentum to take rugby forward here.

What’s needed is a calendar that is logical from grassroots rugby all the way to the top, there always needs to be that steady progression. Some schools in Singapore are great at rugby, with great infrastructure and great budgets to work with, but unfortunately that’s not the story in all schools and there isn’t a level playing field.

There are a lot of kids in Singapore wanting to play rugby and a lot of kids deserve better coaches and the opportunity to play and that was part of my role to up skill coaches, to get very good coaches at the top and start filtering that knowledge down.

In my view the easiest way is to have a flagship, something for children to aspire to and that’s the way I learned rugby. We are attempting to improve things from the bottom up and that’s hard if you don’t have the big players, like the schools or other variables that don’t share the same vision.

We want the game to grow and talent to go to where it should be and quite a few players I’ve been working with have reached their goals, which is very satisfying.

You were born in Tonga, how do kids get into rugby there?

Although I was born in Tonga I actually didn’t grow up there as my parents moved to New Zealand when I was only three years of age. I went back and started playing for Tonga at the age of 20 and there’s no grassroots rugby there, kids tend to play volleyball or netball.

Rugby isn’t an organised sport until the schools take charge and being in the British tradition playing rugby for your school in Tonga is very prestigious. Anything to do with rugby sub 12 years old is pretty disorganised and the game is just played on a casual basis.

It’s much more organised overseas. In New Zealand I started playing rugby barefoot at the age of 5 or 6 and it was more about the fun, the mates and things like oranges at halftime which was all part of the fun. I remember getting told off by the coaches to get that orange peel out of your mouth and get back on the pitch without choking yourself!

The fun part of youth rugby was real, we have to bear in mind it’s not serious, it’s not about winning. It’s about the kid and their level of enjoyment. If they can learn how to catch a ball reliably at the end of the season, then job done. And the following year they work on a few different skills.

You are just about to leave Singapore after nearly five years, what are you going to do next?

I can’t really say too much at the moment but it will be working with Olympic athletes and I am excited about that. I am excited about going back to Tonga as well. It’s my country and it’s a third world country but the potential and raw talent is just mind-blowing.

I played for the Tongan national team for a period of more than 12 years, I know the people and I know what their strengths and weaknesses are. I’ve now spent 5 years in Singapore where they are good at governance and at executing what they need to do and I will take that back with me. Let’s hope we can see more talented athletes go out there and wow the world.

So that’s my job in life, to go out there and wow the world or help other people wow the world!

The SCC Rugby Academy would like to send our best wishes to Inoke Afeaki and his family for their new adventure in Tonga.

Let’s compare

Rugby Union is the national sport in Tonga but how do the rugby stats compare for Singapore and Tonga?

Population

Tonga  106 000   Singapore 5 400 000

Number of registered clubs

Tonga 82   Singapore 24

Number of registered players

Tonga 6891   Singapore 9690

Number of teens playing rugby

Tonga male 3472 female 0  Singapore male 3366 female 1428

Figures from World Rugby (formerly IRB) 2016.

About us

The SCC Rugby Academy is a junior rugby club based in Singapore. We offer rugby training and run groups from under 4 years old to under 17.  We also offer Touch rugby in age groups U10, U12 and U14.

We are affiliated to the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) and work closely with the adult rugby section, although you do not need to be a member of the Singapore Cricket Club to join the SCC Rugby Academy.

We are a non-profit making club with all of our money put back into our club and into rugby in the community. We are run by a committee of volunteers as well as a few paid employees and coaches.

Every age group takes part in all the tournaments in Singapore, we tour to Kuala Lumpur once a year as a whole club and participate in the Junior League, our U15s are the current champions in their age group, with our other groups performing well.

We train at SCC Dempsey ground, with rugby groups meeting on Saturday mornings and Touch rugby on Sunday mornings.

Our club started around five years ago, inspired by a group of rugby players from the adult rugby section of the Singapore Cricket Club. From small beginnings and a handful of players we have grown to more than 450 registered players and at the last count we have children and teenagers who attend around 72 different schools in Singapore. We welcome both local Singaporean children and those from the expatriate community. We offered scholarships for local talented players.

Below: Inoke and his boys

bty

The Singapore rugby scene for newbies!

The SCC Rugby Academy

So you’re looking to play rugby or touch rugby in Singapore? Welcome to SCC Rugby Academy!

The SCC Rugby Academy, Singapore, started more than five years ago, inspired by a group of players from the main Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) rugby section. With a handful of their own kids, and those of friends, they headed down to SCC Dempsey ground. Within months the Academy grew fast and we were entering local tournaments and embarked upon our first tour to Hong Kong on the back of the adult SCC tour.  A few years down the line and the Academy has never looked back with around 450 players now registered.

The SCC Rugby Academy is affiliated to the Singapore Cricket Club, but is run as a separate sports section. Importantly, you do not need to be a member of the main SCC club to join the SCC Rugby Academy.

Many of our players are drawn from the expatriate community but a large section are from local Singapore schools, both private and state schools. In fact, at the last count we have players from 72 different schools in Singapore. One team alone has players drawn from more than 13 different schools! We offer scholarships to talented local players who meet our criteria.

Playing rugby at our club is a great way to get to know kids and parents from different Singapore communities. Many of our players in the older age groups form their own team chats on social media and forge strong friendships.

What makes us special

We pride ourselves on being an inclusive rugby and touch rugby club where every child gets the opportunity to develop their rugby skills and grow as a player. Some squads may field two or even three teams in tournaments, some just one, depending on the number of players. We believe the best way to develop is through quality coaching, the opportunity to play and getting match play experience. Some squads may be split into an A and a B team (sometimes called Lions and Tigers) but coaches put equal emphasis on each team and all players train and act as one squad, supporting each other.

We are the only junior rugby club in Singapore formally aligned to an adult rugby club, the Singapore Cricket Club. As stated, you don’t have to be a member of the Singapore Cricket Club to join the junior SCC Rugby Academy. It does, however, mean our club benefits from many coaches drawn from the rugby section who are still active players. As often happens in junior rugby clubs dads (and sometimes mums) qualify as coaches. But we find players also need other role models. We assign an experienced but younger coach for most age groups, usually drawn from the adult rugby section of the SCC. This model proves very popular with teenagers and youngsters and gives them an excellent role model.

Being affiliated to SCC means we regularly hold end of term training sessions on the historic Padang and adult social events at the SCC.

 

How the rugby and touch rugby year runs

The rugby year runs on the calendar year and players are assigned teams according to their birth year. At SCC Rugby Academy rugby training takes place on Saturday mornings at SCC Dempsey ground, with an additional mid-week training for age groups 11 and above. Touch rugby trains on Sunday mornings, again at the SCC Dempsey ground.

We start as young as under 4 years for rugby training, described as organised chaos by coaches! For many energetic very young children who are awake at the crack of dawn this is just want they need to kick off the weekend. We have several children at rugby training who are still wearing nappies!

Groups then run from under 5s to under 17s. From there your teenager can progress onto the SCC Colts and will have the opportunity to be a Junior Sports Member of the Singapore Cricket Club. The SCC adult rugby section runs four teams and compete locally and internationally.

At the SCC Rugby Academy we run a policy of sibling priority. If your child is in one age group we will guarantee your other child/children gets into their age group. We want you to join as a family!

 

Touch rugby

Touch rugby has been an area of the Academy which has seen phenomenal growth, so much so that we have moved training to Sunday mornings to afford more space.

Touch rugby is open to both girls and boys but is mainly female dominated in terms of players at present. We currently have around 60 players and the Academy runs age groups U10, U12 and U14 with players able to attend training from 7 years old. We are now in the process of discussing expanding to U16. The Touch section benefits from professional coaches as well as qualified parents and helpers.

SCC Academy Touch plays in several tournaments during the year, including our own SCC Academy Rugby and Touch Tournament which takes place on the Padang.

Other tournaments run throughout the year; the Clifford Chance Touch Trophy, The Straits Touch Tournament held just across the border in Malaysia and the SAS Invitational Junior Touch Tournament. Other friendly tournaments and matches are held throughout the year. Parents regularly get together for social events and end of term sessions are sometimes held on the beach in Sentosa.

Other male or female siblings who play rugby on a Saturday mornings with the SCC Academy are welcome to come and join in on Sundays. Two trials are always free and upon registration Touch players are given a playing top, recently redesigned with favourable reviews!

Highlights of our rugby year

Our own 7s tournament

Singapore Cricket Club hosts the SCC International Rugby 7s (SCC 7s) every year in early November. This year (2017) will be the 70th edition with many top teams from around the world returning to play on the historic Padang, which is situated right in front of the Singapore Cricket Club. (Padang means a field or open space in Malay). The Academy runs its own junior rugby and touch 7s tournament, also played on the Padang the weekend before the main 7s tournament. The two finalists in each age group are afforded the accolade of playing during the main 7s tournament. If you are new to Singapore or haven’t yet landed, check out some photos of the Padang on the internet, it’s a stunning pitch to play rugby!

KL and other rugby tours

This is our big rugby tour of the year. The KL Saracens International 10s is a massive rugby tournament run annually in Kuala Lumpur. Many Singapore teams, Hong Kong teams and local clubs compete. The Academy’s current under 13s and under 10s have both won the cup in past years. We organise buses, accommodation and a club dinner with presentations.  This is a fun tour for all the family, visiting grandparents have even joined us on tour! Our KL trip is open to all players who want to participate.

In past years we have also toured to Hong Kong, one rugby team has toured to Perth and some teams head back up to KL for the KL Tigers International Rugby 10s.

Our club also participates in all the local tournaments entering teams in every age group. We take part and have had great results in the Junior Rugby Championship Singapore (JRCS or Junior local league).

 

Rugby in the community

Beyond Social Services and SportsCare are two Singapore based charities helping children and young people from less privileged backgrounds. Though established links with these two organisations we run coaching sessions for children new to rugby. Our volunteer coaches also provide sessions for Gracehaven, a residential home for children and youngsters run by the Salvation Army.

Our head coaches, Bryan Lim and Suhaimi Amran, are both Singaporeans and have played rugby to a high standard. Their links with the community means they are often in local schools inspiring young people to take up rugby.

 

Our charity

We support the Cararoo Foundation, an Australian registered charity operating in the Philippines. We hold bake sales and fundraise at Christmas time and periodically throughout the year we organise collections of preloved sports kit and shoes and send them to our contacts at the Foundation.

The Cararoo Foundation sponsors disadvantaged children in Manila, giving them the opportunity to attend school and after school activities. We particularly fundraise for their Christmas party. In past years this has been a pool party with many of the kids getting the opportunity to swim for the first time ever!

The relationship with the Cararoo Foundation was established a few years ago through the Growlers, one of the adult SCC teams, during the Manila 10s tournament.  Watching was a group of kids who asked the players for any spare kit. After a quick rummage in their bags they came up with a few things but promised to send more after one of the Cararoo staff, Arlene, introduced herself. Arlene is a former women’s national rugby player for the Philippines. She has become a friend of the Academy, as has the Cararoo’s founder, Maurie Schokman, who has visited us at Dempsey during one of our bake sales.

www.cararoofoundation.com.au

 

How we are run

The SCC Rugby Academy in Singapore is a not for profit club with all our money ploughed back into our club and supporting rugby in the community.  

There is a committee of volunteers who help steer the club and discuss the direction of the club as well as a Board of Directors.

We encourage as many members of SCC Rugby Academy parents to get involved in the running of the club, be it at our annual Rugby and Touch 7s tournament, on the committee or helping at bake sales.  

Our kind sponsors include Saxo Markets, The Fry Group, Robert Walters, Telstra and Societe Generale, some of which have been on board with the Academy for many years.

 

Be part of it!

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so come and try us out! Training times are here. Two trials are free before you have to sign up. Either email info@sccrugbyacademy.com, fill out this form or come down to our SCC Dempsey ground just before training, sign a waiver form and we’ll get you going straight away.