Friday, August 26, 2011

Philippine Volcanoes to compete in Shanghai Sevens tournament

Source : Karen Valeza | Yahoo! Newsroom

The controversial billboards showing them in the briefest of briefs had people buzzing.

However, the Philippine Rugby Football Union (PRFU) team, better known as the Philippine Volcanoes, wasn’t out to be controversial for its own sake.

The Volcanoes were actually intent on promoting rugby in the Philippines, doing their best in every competition and producing more homegrown talents to represent the country.

Before their controversial billboards came to light—and then just as quickly torn down following a public outcry—little was known about the Philippine Volcanoes.

Filipinos were not aware that the team was competing in tournaments around Asia and quietly working their way up and putting the Philippines on the map.

Goals for the team

In 2007, the Philippine Volcanoes bagged a silver medal in the Southeast Asian Games in Thailand. They also managed to climb their way from Division 4 to Division 1.

On August 27-28, The Philippine Volcanoes are set to compete with United Arab Emirates and Korea in Shanghai, China for the Shanghai Sevens Tournament. If the Volcanoes beat the opposing teams in Shanghai, they will move on to compete in the prestigious Hong Kong 7s and Rugby World Cup.

This was revealed by Coach Matt Cullen to the press at Oakwood Hotel last August 23.

Members competing in Shanghai are Chris Everingham, Mark Chatting, Kenneth Stern, Rupert Zappia, Jake Letts, Andrew Wolff, Chris Hitch, Justin Coveney, Harry Morris, Jon Morales, Oliver Saunders and John Odulio.

The team is also pinning its hopes on being one of the top two Asian unions to qualify for IRB Rugby World Cup, one of the top six in the Asian Sevens Series in 2013 for the IRB Olympic Qualifications and one of the top two Asian unions to qualify for the Olympic games.

A team of hyphenates

Like the Philippine Azkals, many of the Volcanoes are hyphenates, including Filipino-Australian Ned Plarizan Stephenson and Filipino-French Patrice Ortiz Olivier.

But, averred Volcanoes captain and Filipino-Australian Jake Letts in a sit-down interview with Yahoo! OMG Philippines, “We want more homegrown Filipinos playing and enjoying the sport of rugby, that’s our vision.”

Does he think there’s a place for rugby in a country obsessed with basketball and boxing?

“Over time, as we get more exposure and if Philippine Volcanoes keep doing well, I see more Filipinos are getting more interested,” said Jon Morales. “ This year, we have the Rugby Development 101 training for the new players.”

PRFU’s Rugby 101 program trains new rugby players every Monday and Wednesday evening at Philsports National Stadium. PRFU also entered three new teams in the PRFU 7’s league. Jon also noticed an increase in those who attend the training program.

Letts sees those in the Visayas and Mindanao as especially enthusiastic about playing the sport, but laments the lack of trainers. “We need more coaches and development officers out there growing the sport. So, I think it’s a good opportunity that if we do well here (Shanghai games) and in next year for the sport to flourish here, just like football,” he said.

Don’t hate, appreciate

The team also addressed a few issues.

On the recent victory of the Philippine Dragon Boat Team in Florida even without government support. Said Fil-Aussie Kenneth Stern,  “Anyone who wears Philippine jersey you have a lot of respect for. We all wish that everyone will do well. The players there are all great guys. We support them in everything they do. The more support you get from the country, the better.”

On spending their own money for the trips and competitions of the Philippine Volcanoes: “It’s such a privilege for us to play and we’re all willing to make sacrifices to represent the country. And if that’s what it takes, we’ll do it,” John Odulio said.

On being criticized for not being “Pinoy enough:” “It’s a great honor to represent your country,” said Chris Everingham, who listed his hometowns as Ormoc, Leyte and Sydney, Australia on Facebook.  “To have that opportunity to play at that level was something you dreamed of as a child. I’m proud to be Pinoy and that’s why we’re here, to inspire people that you can live your dreams.”

On sport as a way to inspire Filipinos. “I think rugby, just like the Philippine Azkals and the Philippine Dragon Boat team, is something that we should all be proud of and be watching for. When I play, I think about Filipinos in general, they’re all cheerful and always smiling. If we can keep those smiles while we play rugby, then I think we’ve done our job. We wanna keep inspiring Filipinos,” Chris Hitch said.

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