Is this 43-year-old the most versatile athlete in Hong Kong?

May 27, 2019

Photo credit: Gozar Images

 

If someone created a new rugby code, you can bet your bottom dollar that James Elliot would be first in line to give it a try.  

 

To say he is omnipresent in Hong Kong rugby is no exaggeration; the 44-year-old has won both Valley's 2015-16 Player of the Year (in which he made appearances for all of its 5 teams) and 2016-17 Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) Women's Coach of the Year for guiding the Black Ladies to both the Premiership and Grand Championship title. 

 

In addition, he was selected as head coach for Hong Kong's first venture on the international stage in the 2018 Tag World Cup, as well as serving as a referee in Rugby League fixtures, the New Year's Day Tournament and as far up as the Premier A division in the regular HKRU season. 

 

Growing up in an environment dripping in rugby culture, his open-mindedness to and passion for all variants of the sport was cultivated from a young age. 

 

 

Honing his skill in League and later Union and Touch at Southport School, Elliot quickly became a talented multi-code player at youth and national levels.  

 

"My individual skills are more designed for 10s rugby more than 15s or 7s, but I love all three versions," said Elliot, when asked to choose between the codes. 

 

"Tag rugby has been in my life since 1993 and is now back as a big part of my time in Hong Kong."

 

"Rugby league is more about crash & bash, and at 43 with a shoulder injury, I don't see it as an option for me anymore, but I still get involved to referee the matches each year." 

 

Having become fluent in Mandarin since his high school days, adapting to life in China proved no problem in 2009, as he began coaching at various international schools and the China National squad.  

 

 

However, the Australian found Hong Kong's calling too strong to resist. 

 

"I kept learning Chinese, which allowed me to bring my family to China in 2009 with the intention of moving to Hong Kong eventually for the rugby scene," said the 43-year-old. 

 

"After 4 years in Shanghai, we moved to Shenzhen, where I would regularly come over to Hong Kong to play for Valley."

 

In 2016, this dream became a reality as he took up a post at the American International School, whilst contriving to make a bigger contribution to Hong Kong rugby. 

 

Indeed, his versatility and athletic prowess is well-known in these parts and Elliot can be found outrunning players half his age in Tag - a code of rugby that emphasises agility and speed over raw strength.

 

 

In turn, his exploits on the field are something he attributes to an irrepressible devotion to fitness and undergoing a strict and consistent physical regimen.

 

"This training revolves around speed endurance, plyometrics, core work and hurdles technique, two to three times a week. I can't see myself as the kind of person that just doesn't do any exercise," he said.

 

"I am a P.E. teacher, so my job allows me to stay fit while I teach. An average day sees me reach over 25,000 steps with some days above 40,000."

 

"Being a qualified personal trainer, I use a lot of resistance based training and speedwork to keep my fitness levels where I need them." he added. 

 

As if an expansive rugby portfolio wasn't enough, Elliot is also an accomplished track athlete who placed 3rd in Javelin and made top 10 in the long jump and 200m categories in the 2017 Hong Kong Masters Games. 

 

 

Despite his considerable abilities as a sportsman, Elliot derives just as much satisfaction from the coaching process. 

 

The 44-year-old divides his time tutoring a variety of teams, sharing his expertise through running and fitness classes, while preparing for Hong Kong's 2021 Tag World Cup campaign. 

 

Hong Kong's involvement in the competition is set to be even bigger, with talk of sending a mixed over-35 and over-40 men's squad as well. 

 

"It is part of who I am, to coach and watch people develop. I love to watch people improve even in one small skill area or develop a new skill they didn't have." he remarked.  

 

"I love to have my students or athletes tell me they feel better, perform better and used a skill I taught them within their sporting arenas."

 

 

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