Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2016 to honour Beth Coalter and Jonah Lomu
Diamond Vision messages in stadium to raise funds for Cyclone Winston relief for Fiji
The Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) has announced details of memorial events for Jonah Lomu and Beth Coalter during the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens 2016.
Immediately following the tournament's Opening Ceremony on Friday, (8 April), at 17.46, rugby fans in the Stadium will lead and represent millions more around the world in remembering two pillars of the game: playing legend Lomu and former HKRU and World Rugby executive Coalter, both of whom passed away in late 2015.
Accompanying videos will be played on the big screen inside the Stadium during the commemoration.
"Jonah Lomu and Beth Coalter were two seminal figures in our history who helped make the Hong Kong Sevens what it is today; one taking centre stage on the pitch and one working tirelessly behind the scenes. We can't think of a more fitting way to honour their memories and recognise their immense contributions than with this tribute from the Hong Kong Sevens crowd who have so much to thank them for," said HKRU Chairman Pieter Schats, speaking on behalf of the entire Hong Kong Rugby community.
Honouring a Hong Kong Sevens legend
Jonah Lomu made his debut Hong Kong appearance in 1994, giving Sevens fans a privileged opportunity to witness a superstar in the making. The towering teenager arrived in Hong Kong as an unheralded youngster but exited the Sevens on the cusp of stardom.
Months after debuting in Hong Kong he was selected as the then youngest-ever All Black at just 19 years and 45 days old, making his fifteen-a-side debut against France. The following year he cemented his reputation as rugby's most unstoppable force by scoring seven tries at the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa.
Lomu would return to the Hong Kong Sevens in 1995 and 1996, anchoring New Zealand to three successive tournament victories and securing himself an abiding place in Hong Kong Sevens' sporting lore. He was named the Leslie Williams Award winner for Best & Fairest Player of the Sevens in 1995.
Lomu returned to the accolades of the 40,000 fans inside the Hong Kong Stadium last year after he was named to the tournament's 'Magnificent Seven', the top seven players to have appeared in Hong Kong over the past 40 years of the Sevens.
Beth Coalter Trophy for Newcomer of the Year Inaugurated
The Hong Kong Rugby Union lost another influential member of the world sevens family last October with the passing of Beth Coalter, a much-loved former HKRU executive who played an instrumental role in making the Hong Kong Sevens the international success story it has become, and who subsequently went on to join the World Rugby family, extending her impact on the global game.
To honour Coalter, the Hong Kong Rugby Union has inaugurated a new trophy for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, starting from the 2016 tournament.
The eponymous silverware will be named the Beth Coalter Trophy for Newcomer of the Year and will be awarded each year to the player who gives the most outstanding debut Hong Kong Sevens performance.
The award will be voted on by the panel of three who decide on the event's annual Leslie Williams Award for Best & Fairest Player of the Sevens each year: New Zealand rugby commentator Keith Quinn, Welsh rugby commentator Wyn Gruffydd and Hong Kong's own Bob Lloyd, a former England international.
Emblematic of the esteem Coalter was held in around the Sevens world, New Zealand legend Eric Rush commented at last year's 40 Years of the Sevens dinner in Hong Kong that the Magnificent Sevens – the HKRU's team of the seven greatest players in Hong Kong history should have included an eighth member in Beth Coalter.
The trophy will be the first new piece of silverware introduced to the tournament since the inception of the World Rugby Sevens Series Qualifier trophy in 2012.
Prior to joining World Rugby as Sevens Operations Manager, Beth worked for the Hong Kong Rugby Union from 1987 to 2005, having left her native Ireland for Hong Kong in 1974. She rose to the position of Hong Kong Sevens Tournament Manager for the Union, shaping much of the Sevens experience the expected 120,000 cumulative fans will enjoy this weekend.
"The great majority of the Hong Kong rugby community have never experienced a Sevens without Beth, but we are pleased to have found a fitting way to honour not just her memory but her massive contribution to the development of international Sevens and a way to ensure that she is forever present at the Hong Kong Sevens," said Schats.
After leaving the Hong Kong Rugby Union, Beth joined World Rugby where she was characteristically indefatigable in promoting the game, in particular the sevens, on a global scale.
Diamond Vision Screen Messages to raise funds for Cyclone Winston Relief in Fiji
The Hong Kong Rugby Union has also confirmed details of its fundraising efforts to aid the relief efforts for the victims of Cyclone Winston in Fiji.
This year, all proceeds from the placement of personal messages on the Diamond Vision screen inside the stadium will be donated in aid of Cyclone Winston relief in Fiji.
The minimum donation required to place a message on the Diamond Vision screen over the tournament weekend is HK$200.All funds raised will be donated to Cyclone relief efforts in the Pacific Island nation, which is still coping with the after-effects of the natural disaster with an estimated 60,000 people still homeless across the country.