Posted: Saturday, May 20, 2017
Categories: Club News, Rugby News

Valley Fort Chairman's Update - May 21 - plus changing of the guard


Valley Fort parents,

With the Aberdeen Festival 2 weeks ago, we’ve come to the end of another action-packed and rewarding rugby season. Well almost… Just a couple of Hong Kong games against Korea, the Hong Kong women’s tour to Spain, and the small matter of a British & Irish Lions Tour to New Zealand. After 3 seasons as Chairman, this will be my last update to Valley Fort parents (do I hear sighs of relief?), and so I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on a few things before I hand over responsibility for Valley Fort to…

….Keir Macintosh. Congratulations Keir! More on that later.

I’ll try to keep it short, but probably will not…

First, a few housekeeping items:

  • End of Season Awards to be presented at HKMRFU dinner. Congratulations to:
    • Valley Fort Coach of the Year: Steve Hersey (U10 girls). Many contenders for this award, including Amelie Seure (U12 girls) Jonathan Berney (U12), Simon Anam (U9) and the Glynn/Moskey combination (U7), but Steve is being recognized for not only the exceptional progress made with the U10 girls this season (both numbers and results), but also his overall contribution to leadership of the broader girls program at Valley Fort which I’m confident will pay huge dividends in the future
    • Valley Fort Referee of the Year: Philip Lynch (U11, U9, U7, U5 and, perhaps, U1).  Close contender was Gabriel Gondard (U10, U8), but Philip is being recognized for both volume of contribution (all those age groups) and the high quality of his whistling. Seeing him try to juggle the schedule of FOUR kids at festivals, and still rushing off to referee matches at all those age groups, was quite something. Exceptional support from his wife Lara, but also a very complex spread sheeting exercise the night before. Given he’s getting the award, I should also commend his refereeing – with the distinctive look last seen with the Italian fella who reffed football matches at the highest level, Philip has a detailed knowledge of the laws (he had to correct me on many occasions), could usually keep up with play, had excellent communication and authority, and a great empathy with the kids. He was equally effective with the ferocious A tier U11 games and playing more of a coaching role with some of the local clubs in the B tier.
  • End-of-Season “V is for Valley Fort” Party at Mr. and Mrs Fox. For those of you who didn’t make it, what a great evening! Thanks to Swire Properties for making available such a great venue, and thanks to organisers Allison Creel, Ashlee Schroth, Paige Sinclair, Katherine Berliner and Anna Klavins for everything they did to make it such a fun evening…. Apart from the vodka luge perhaps… Thanks also to William Furniss was photographer- in-chief, and if you forget to check out link in the email from Keir a couple of weeks ago, here it is again:
  • Photos. Talking of photos, it’s great to have a record of club activities and so, I’d encourage/request you to do 2 things:
    • Check out the website. There are some great photos already posted, so go have a look
    • Send photos to Jessie. Many of you have better camers than my iPhone, so if you have some good pics, please send them to Jessie to upload to the website for all to see. Send to Jessie on and indicate age group and date so we can file appropriately. Specifically I’m hoping to get the following as my regular photographer (Gabriel Gondard) was being hassled by the PLA as they mistook his massive lens for a deadly weapon:
      • Group photo with Chiefs group in front of Stanley Fort clubhouse (Apr 23)
      • Group photo in front of clubhouse on final day of season (Apr 30)
  • Registration. We’ll open registration as soon as the website has been updated. Wait for the email from Keir…
  • Coaching and reffing courses. A quick follow-up from my message 2 weeks ago. For those of you interested in coaching or reffing, in preparation for next season I’d like to remind you of the HKRU Coach and Referee Education Pathway (attached) and also inform you that dates and venues of courses in May and June (English and Chinese) are now available on the HKRU website.  Apparently there is still space on the English courses in May and June and if you’re interested it is a good time to do it (the HKRU expect courses in August to be very busy. Please sign up directly:  Please note that we are also working with Deano to organize Valley Fort coach-the-coach courses over the next 3 months before the start of the 2017-18 season. Details to follow.
  • Sponsorship. While I’ll reiterate my thanks to our 2016-17 sponsors, and to all of them for their continued support through 2017-18, there are still opportunities available for next season. If you have your own company or have influence on your employer’s marketing budget, then consider Valley Fort as an excellent channel to reach around 500 sets of parents (800 kids) with a very attractive socio-economic profile, as well as broader reach through festivals, etc. If interested please contact Simon on:
  • Jobs for the Boys (and girls!). Many of our pro coaches are finding their feet in Hong Kong, and several are searching for employment opportunities to establish a more permanent presence. If you have vacant positions at your company, or are willing to take on somebody on a trial/intern basis, please reach out to Keir on and Nick Hewson Experience shows that we have some excellent young men and women join Valley RFC and they can contribute in the workplace too. Many thanks. While I’m on this topic, one additional plug for the business of the wife of Sheldon Coffin, U10 coach:
    • Krystina Te Kanawa-Coffin has a pampering business for you mums and metrosexual dads (thinking Keir and Simon, George Von Burg, Ken Littlejohn and David Beckham). Try it out for yourselves. Check website and call Krystina on 5635 6623 or email
  • ESPN Six Nations Fantasy League. This should have been done and dusted, but we (actually it was me) got busy with the Sevens and Easter and never awarded any prizes. Given the winner was Andrew Stratton, I’ve been reminded about once a day, so prizes will be dispatched before I hand over the chairmanship. Just to remind you, prizes to 1) Andrew Stratton (422 points), 2) Jimmy Donnelly (416 points) and 3) Bill/Harry Nichol (402 points) who will receive Amazon vouchers of HKD500, HKD300 and HKD200 respectively
  • Hong Kong XV vs Korea in the Asian Championship, 4pm June 3 at HKFC. Hong Kong suffered a disappointing 16-0 loss to Japan last weekend despite the return of Nick Hewson. The highlights, other than Hewson’s clearance kick that nearly got run back for a try, was the excellent performance of Valley Fort coaches, Ben Higgins (U12) and Matt Rosslee (U19). Hong Kong play away to Korea next Saturday and will then host Korea for the return fixture at HKFC on June 3, 4pm at HKFC. Go along to support, and I’d suggest you get there early to make sure you get a seat…
  • Hong Kong Women XV tour to Spain. I’m glad to say that 3 Valley Fort coaches have made the 26 person squad that’s going to Spain next week as the next step in their preparation for the Women’s World Cup to be held in Ireland this August. Congratulations to Amelie Seure (U12), Colleen Tjosvold (U10) and Rebecca Thompson (U14), and of course good luck in Ireland! If any of you are in Europe in August, perhaps consider a trip to Ireland to support Hong Kong…
  • Keeping your kids involved in rugby through the summer. I’d strongly recommend you stay connected with rugby during the summer, or at least encourage your kids to do so. What are the options?
    • I hope the age group head coaches will communicate with you and potentially even organize the occasional get together – play some rugby, something social, just keeping the kids connected. If they don’t, be proactive and do it yourselves!
    • There’s lots of great rugby to watch. I’ve mentioned HK vs Korea and the Women’s World Cup, but on TV (or in person – Andrew and I will be at the first test…) you can watch the Lions tour to New Zealand, the conclusion of the Super 18, and the Rugby Championship
  • Recruiting!!! Don’t forget that our recruiting program is in place, and your kids stand to earn HKD200 for every person they recruit in the following age groups: girls (any age group), boys U11 through U19. $$ will be paid out if those recruits are still playing in the New Year 2018. Think about siblings, new arrivals to Hong Kong, sport school friends not currently playing rugby, etc., etc. Don’t forget to have those referred players indicate your kid as their referral source when they register for Valley Fort



Second, many of you already know that Keir Macintosh is taking over from me as Chairman (subject to confirmation by Valley Fort Committee on Monday, and I’ll do all I can to ensure that it happens!). I’m confident that the club is in excellent hands. For those of you with kids in this year’s U10 age group, you’ll know that Keir brings all the essential skills to the role: military-like organization and leadership, rugby passion and knowledge, empathy with kids, excellent coaching and communication, and a sense of humour… And, Keir assures me, Emma is an understanding wife!



And finally, a few reflections from me… 


While I’ve been involved with Valley Fort as a dad since my son Andrew started U5 in 2000-01, I was never age group head coach and so was slightly surprised when my predecessor as Chairman, Louis Gave, asked me to support him as Vice-Chairman, and even more surprised a year later when he announced to the end of season party that he was stepping down and I was now the Chairman! My wife Jennifer was more surprised and never quite forgave me (or Louis!). So I’ve spent 3 years trying to keep the club going forward, and, more importantly, trying to find a successor. Finally I’ve accomplished the latter and so I can now step down, knowing that the club is still strong and hopefully still an enjoyable and rewarding experience for all of our stakeholders. I’d like to highlight some of the areas that make me feel exceptionally proud of the club, and would emphasize that they are a result of a wonderful collective effort from many people:

  • The continued progression of high quality coaching across all age groups
  • Seeing the performance of our colts teams. Many near misses, but some thrilling wins
  • The expansion and excitement in our girls program across all ages
  • The KL tour. A really rewarding social experience for all of us there, on and off the field, and (finally!) truly outstanding results with 4 cup wins (U7, U9, U10, U11) and good performances across the board
  • The Valley Fort Festival, acknowledged by all clubs as taking things to a completely different level
  • The positive sideline behaviour of all of you. Some other club chairs have had some tough issues to deal with…
  • The contribution we’ve made to other clubs in such a positive way – U8 tackle training, local players in our colts teams
  • The camaraderie and club spirit across a diverse and interesting group of parents and kids


None of this would have been possible without a tremendous team of people, predominantly volunteers, who make the club such a success. I am taking the huge risk of missing out some people, but I would like to recognise a few:

  • Jessie Lam, Clubhouse Manager, supported by Kathy Ching, for their dependability and responsiveness throughout the season. Jessie’s always on top of things, reminds me of things I forget, and is there with a smiling face to deal with parents every Sunday. The only thing she hasn’t dared do is to edit my emails…
  • Keir Macintosh and Simon Anam, Vice Chairmen for this season. They didn’t realise that by sitting next to me at the first committee meeting this season, they were vulnerable to be hijacked into the role, but they have both stepped up and provided incredible leadership in many areas including kit and merchandise, sponsorship, and the festival, and acted as a sounding board on so many things
  • Louis Gave, who selected me for the Chairman role (Jennifer won’t thank him!), but has continued to contribute to the club and has been a mentor to me throughout
  • George Von Burg, who took responsibility for organizing a really special Valley Fort festival, and who’s also playing an important role as Treasurer of the HKMRFU
  • All the age group head coaches for ensuring such a great experience for all of our kids – coaching, managing, encouraging, disciplining, etc.
  • Deano for all his work as Director of Rugby (coach-the-coach, coaching oversight, U13 head coach), and the pro coaches who’ve helped to create a safe and enjoyable environment for our kids to learn rugby
  • The mums and dads who are always first to volunteer, so many of you, but I should mention Ashlee and Andy, Lorna and Andrew, Shirley, Becky, Hannette, Hester, Paige, Tim Durant… …and everyone else!
  • And, of course, my lovely wife Jennifer who has had to patiently put up with all the time I’ve spent doing club related things, and my son Andrew (“Dad, the problem with you being Chairman is that I have to hang around while you go to other age groups…”)

Thank you to all of you. And to the refs…


Has it all been worth it? You bet. A lot of hard work and long hours, but it’s been a real pleasure working with such a great group of people and such wonderful shared values and passion for the sport of rugby. But the one thing that really makes it worthwhile is seeing the enjoyment of the kids. Totally energizing for me and makes every single minute invested to be a good use of time. Watching our Valley Fort teams participate so well at festivals and colts matches, or walking around at training and seeing 800 kids enjoying the sport, and the kind of engagement from parents that we don’t see with other sports or activities makes it really, really special for me.



Over and out. Thanks for everything. I’ll miss being Chairman, but I’m super excited that the club is in such good hands to take it to the next level.


Have a wonderful summer and see you in August,




Oliver Stratton

Chairman, Valley Fort RFC

Tel:  +852 9026 0520



Encl: HKRU Mini Rugby Volunteer Education Pathway

Last updated: 20 May 2017 22:29