This report about the national women’s rugby team – also known as the Singapore Rugby Lions – appeared in Saturday’s edition of The Straits Times:
PAIN AND PASSION (The Straits Times, 7 Nov 2009)
For the love of rugby, captain Wang and Co will do anything to play
By Lin Xinyi
HAVING your child attempt to put Singapore in a World Cup is normally a matter of pride for any parent.
But when Wang Shao Ing was leading Singapore out against Japan in Wednesday’s qualifier for the 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup, her parents were not even aware their daughter was donning national colours.
For they had been asking Wang to quit the sport for the longest time following numerous injuries to the 32-year-old.
In April, she injured her sternum and was asked to take a year off. But Wang defied her doctor’s advice, gritted her teeth and returned to the pitch in July.
Welcome to the world of Singapore’s national women’s rugby team. A world of pain and passion.
Said fullback Leung Wai Mun, 30: ‘The morning after a match, you wake up feeling like you’ve been run over by a bus. But you feel alive – every single nerve is screaming in pain.’
Wang’s early return was due to her desire to play in the World Cup qualifiers.
‘I knew I needed to be on the pitch to prove my form to get selected for the qualifiers,’ she said.
The flanker had missed the Asian Women’s Championship 7s in 2005 when Singapore played hosts, and did not want to be on the sidelines again.
Then, watching the matches proved so difficult that she packed up her bags and went to climb Mt Semeru in Indonesia.
This time, the legal counsel was in no mood to track up another volcano.
One of her biggest motivations for playing rugby is her close friend and former national vice-captain, Jane Lee, who died in a motorcycle accident in 2006.
‘Every day, I get to play a game that my friend loves,’ she said. ‘That’s my extra motivation.’
Being the captain, Wang believes in leading by example.
Said teammate Kristy Teh, 32: ‘She arrives an hour before training to practise her kicking. She truly eats, sleeps and breathes the sport. She watches all the games, and will pass us links of YouTube clips that will help us improve our game.’
Like Wang, No. 8 Ang Wei Yi, 25, is another player whose parents are unaware of her passion for rugby.
‘I tell them that I’m going jogging,’ said Ang of the code word for national training.
For the record, ‘jogging’ takes place three times a week, excluding the gym work each player has to put in.
Ang also had to play through the pain barrier this week, after tearing her shoulder ligament three weeks ago.
‘Rugby allows me to live in the moment,’ she said. ‘You train the whole year for special games like these. You really cherish that game you train for. It passes you by in 80 minutes.’
Fullback Derelyn Chua also had to go the distance to feature in the Asian qualifiers.
She was supposed to be having examinations at the University of Western Australia this week. But the 25-year-old returned at her own expense for the qualifiers, and arranged to have an invigilator so she could sit for her exam papers here.
For all their sacrifices, Singapore had no wins to show for in their two Asian qualifiers. They lost to Japan 11-35 and Hong Kong 3-16.
Never mind. Wang and company can look forward to next year’s Asian Championship.
She said: ‘The most important thing is to walk off the pitch knowing that no one could have asked any more from us. It makes losing easier to stomach.
‘Defeat is not the issue. It’s always about the performance.’
This story made for such a wonderful read that I just had to share it here with those who may have missed it in the papers.
Reading about the dedication and passion that these women have for their sport, the lengths they would go to and the sacrifices that they would make really warmed my heart.
Truly, this is what being an athlete is about: the pride of perservering against the odds just to be able to play, and represent the country and oneself on the biggest stage possible.
To me, it doesn’t matter that our Rugby Lionesses eventually (and to their credit, narrowly too) lost their two Rugby World Cup qualifying matches, against Japan (11-35) and Hong Kong (3-16) to finish last among the four Asian teams vying for a place in next year’s RWC finals in England.
As far as I am concerned, they are winners in their own right.
According to the Singapore Rugby Union website , our women ruggers have made impressive strides forward since women’s rugby was introduced in Singapore in a non-contact version (touch rugby) in 1996.
A National Women’s team was formed in 1997 and were participants in the 1997 Hong Kong Women’s Invitational Sevens. A year later, the ladies emerged as joint champions at the 1998 Haadyai Sevens.
Ranked at the bottom of 12 teams in 1997, the Women’s team has made great strides in the game since. The team was ranked 2nd and 3rd in Asia in 2004 and 2005 respectively. The team was also awarded the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) Team Merit Status Award for their performance in 2004. This is the first award by the SNOC that the SRU has achieved since the 1970s.
I also did some research and found the names of the members of the national 15s team. Here they are, so that more people are able to know who they are:
Chan Jia hui (SRC), Saudi Tan (SRC), Koh Mei Giet (SRC), Annabel Woo (SRC), Sophie Ngin Gollifer (SRC), Karen Yeoh (SRC), Yin Mei Hitchcock Lenden (Blacks), Azurah Bte Mhd Khalid (Blacks), Lee Tao Jing (Blacks), Ailei Tandean (Blacks), Berni Ong (Blacks), Priscilla Humphries (Blacks), Ang Weiyi (Blacks), Wang Shao Ing (Blacks), Andrea Koh (Bucks)
Angela Zheng (SRC), Serena Yeoh (Blacks), Amanda Teo (Blacks), Aslinda Abdullah (Blacks), Lim Li Yan (Blacks) Tabitha Fong (Blacks), Angelina Lim (SRC), Tan Hui Juan (Blacks), Leung Wai Mun (Blacks), Wong Yilin (Blacks), Chan Jiayu (Blacks), Haseena Alllapitchay (Monsoon), Kristy Teh (Monsoon)
You can find out more about our national women’s teams (both 7s and 15s) as well as the local women’s rugby scene at this other website.
Take a bow, ladies. You have my utmost respect and admiration.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan