[25 March 2011] Dean Herewini’s role as a coach with the HSBC Penguin International Coaching Academy has led the former Hong Kong national team prop to run clinics in Hong Kong this week with the likes of All Blacks legends Jonah Lomu and John Kirwan and former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio.
However, as excited as he gets to rub shoulders with legends of the game, the current Malaysia coach – who will also play a big role in this year’s HSBC ARFU Rugby Coaching Tour – saves most of his enthusiasm for his students.
Since last Sunday, Herewini and the HSBC Penguins have completed a whirlwind tour of clinics for groups from Rwanda, South Africa, New Zealand, China and Hong Kong, with venues ranging from Sandy Bay and Sai Kung to Happy Valley and Hong Kong Football Club.
“It’s a big week of classes here, most of which are conducted by the academy coaches, but we get the players and sometimes the ex-international players involved for the bigger sessions,” says Herewini, a self-described ‘rugby nomad’ whose 15-year stint in Asia has seen him play for Hong Kong and also work in Indonesia and Malaysia, where he’s in his third year as national 15-a-side coach.
“Our players will come to play in the Hong Kong Tens and watch the Sevens, but when they leave, they often say their best memory is ‘I coached 120 kids’ or ‘I coached 60 kids’, all of diverse ages and abilities. To watch a kid running and chasing a ball is almost more exciting than watching a tournament,” adds the New Zealander, who helped Malaysia win promotion to Division I of the HSBC Asian 5 Nations in 2009.
This year, the HSBC Penguins contingent who travelled to Hong Kong numbered about 90, including a first team – under the guidance of former Scotland coach Frank Hadden – who reached the semi-finals of the GFI Hong Kong Tens and a more social King Penguins selection who competed in the Kowloon RugbyFest.
However, for Herewini, coaching comes first and he has played an active role since meeting Craig Brown, the club’s current Chief Executive, soon after the Penguin academy was formalised following an investment by HSBC in 2004. The academy’s first official outing was in Hong Kong that same year when coaching sessions catered for elite Chinese players aged 17 to 23, Hong Kong University students and a ‘coach the coaches’ session.
“The Penguins travel to various places around the world – from Mexico to Kuala Lumpur, you name it – but mainly to places that need more development,” Herewini says.
“One of my nomadic reasons for coming to Asia was to play a bit of rugby in Hong Kong and head back to New Zealand, but instead I found great opportunities for me in terms of rugby development. It’s a big thing in Asia but there’s still a long way to go and I stayed because there’s so much opportunity.
“I’m a volunteer, but I would do it day in, day out, just to watch the kids coming through, especially the local kids, because that’s where your future is. It’s just a passion we all have.
“We’re often coaching kids from the age of six through to university students. That sums up the philosophy of what we’re trying to do – we’re basically trying to spread the gospel of rugby around the region.”
Herewini believes the HSBC Penguins – a club founded in 1959 – may be unique in the world of rugby, both in terms of its breadth of countries toured and also in the professionalism and depth of its coaching academy.
“Many touring teams who travel to tournaments are also organising coaching clinics off the back of their appearances, which I think is wonderful,” he says.
“From an HSBC Penguins perspective, we have a curriculum, where we’ll go and run courses under guidelines set by the IRB and the Scottish and English Rugby Unions. We’ll send coaches to these countries – like Rwanda, Malaysia – as an ongoing process. I haven’t heard of any other club outside of HSBC Penguins doing such things and that’s probably why it has such a fantastic name.”
Herewini helped Lomu and Kirwan, an HSBC ambassador, launch this year’s HSBC ARFU Rugby Coaching Tour on Wednesday and the HSBC Penguins – alongside the likes of Kirwan and Hadden – will next stage coaching clinics in Sri Lanka and Kazakhstan before both teams play their opening Top Five matches on April 23.
The tour will then visit Top Five competitors Hong Kong, UAE and Japan, as well as Korea and Thailand, which will host Divisions I and II respectively. Following activities in Macau and Hong Kong over the summer, clinics will be held in host nations on the new HSBC Asian Sevens Series starting with China and Malaysia in September, then Thailand in October and India in November.
“With HSBC’s sponsorship, the coaching tour can bring in great coaches like Frank Hadden who did it last year and spent a lot of time on the road with the HSBC Asian 5 Nations. For me to be involved in clinics with Frank, it’s a wonderful thing and it allows me to learn and then teach my academy guys within the Penguins,” Herewini says.
“Being involved with John Kirwan is just phenomenal. You saw what he could do as a player in the Rugby World Cup in 1987 and you’ve seen what he did as coach with Italy and what he’s doing with Japan. People will thrive to go to a John Kirwan coaching clinic. It’s great to have these guys on board.”