Thai Rugby Spreads its wings

Pat Cotter

On Sunday 28th February, the Thai Rugby Union (TRU) as part of its modernization drive and in line with TRU president Pol.Lt.Col. Kulthon Prachuabmoh’s vision for rugby in the kingdom, held a meeting to discuss the setting up of the first TRU Regional Sub Union in the country. The meeting was hosted at the Chiang Mai Sports Authority offices at the 700 Year Old Stadium complex, and TRU general manager, Khun Atapol, was in the chair to present the TRU’s vision for taking Thai rugby to the next level.

The TRU’s aim is to set up regional offices in the North, North East and the South of the country. Along with Bangkok and the central regions the idea is to drive rugby development, especially through schools, and give the regions a greater say in how resources and development programs are run. For people, that have grown up in rugby playing nations, this is the norm, but for Thailand its revolutionary, and will see a massive expansion in playing numbers in the future. All regional offices will be affiliated to the TRU and will adhere to the TRU’s constitution. This will bring the added benefits of support across all aspects of the game from the TRU especially access to quality coaches, referees and support staff. “We want to make rugby all inclusive, for all people, from all walks of life throughout the kingdom” said Khun Kulthon. “Getting the youth engaged is important for growing and expanding the game. The regional unions will help to facilitate that growth”

As Northern Thailand Rugby (N.T.R) has been instrumental over the past couple of years in helping to develop rugby in Chiang Mai, the NTR committee of Dave McRitchie, Paul Bolwell, Thomas Stubley, Dr. Pongson Yaicharoen and Patrick Cotter were invited to attend and bring their perspective to the proceedings.

In his opening address Khun Atapol stated that the reason that Chiang Mai had been chosen as the showcase for the regional sub union was that, in the past, Chiang Mai was the powerhouse of rugby in the country but, over the last 15 years, had fallen away and was now being overtaken by the other regions in rugby development. He said that it was in the TRU’s and everyone’s interest that Chiang Mai becomes the powerhouse again and leads the way forward.

The TRU Chiang Mai Regional Sub Union will be responsible for developing the sport in 17 Northern Provinces with an emphasis on youth development, getting rugby into school curriculums, organizing competitions, leagues and tournaments, coaching and refereeing seminars as well as assisting the TRU when they host regional events. It is also an aim of the TRU to set up provincial teams that can play tournaments and develop potential players for both the men’s and women’s national squads.

NTR President and Lanna Rugby Club captain Dave McRitchie said “It is a great honor to be involved in the foundations of regional sub unions for T.R.U. This is a huge step to growing the game across the the kingdom by establishing and supporting regional sub unions. In the North we hope to help grow the game and help identify future players for regional select sides and hopefully the men’s and women’s national sides”.

After presentations and input from various attendees it was decided that the way forward was for an acting president to be elected, who would then form a working committee and at the TRU AGM on March 30th, present the committee and the plan for running the regional union. If accepted by the TRU then the formalization of the sub union will begin. Khun Surapong Chernasong was duly elected as acting president and will work towards getting a functional committee together who share a vison for making Chiang Mai rugby great again.

During proceedings the NTR were called upon to do a presentation of their achievements over the past couple of years. Thomas Stubley gave the presentation showcasing the formation of a regular seniors league, youth development and the progress in negotiating with schools to get their participation in upcoming development programs. The upcoming 2021 league comprising 8 teams playing over a 15 week period was also presented and its hoped that the incoming committee will continue the work that has already been put in place and support and develop the league further.

Thomas Stubley, Lanna Rugby Club founder had this to say “Sunday was a great day for Thai rugby with various heads of the game coming together for the love of the sport. After the fantastic work put in place over the last three years in Chiang Mai with Northern Thailand Rugby, I am excited to see what the future will bring now that the T.R.U. have initiated provincial rugby offices. This will mean more leagues, more tournaments and more grassroots development. Just fantastic!”.

The meeting closed with the newly elected acting president Khun Surapong Chernasong saying he will announce another meeting in the coming weeks, to set out his plan for the Northern regions union and to introduce the new committee that will steer the union through its first couple of years.

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