Can Kolej retain its supremacy over school rugby?

READY FOR 2012: Kolej DPAH Abdillah MSSN Under-15s and U-18s 2011 reigning champions.

A very merry Christmas to everyone and have an enjoyable holidays. We are just a week away from bidding farewell to 2011 and welcoming 2012 and what has 2011 been for the game? And what will it be like for 2012?

For the game at school level, there was a changing of the guard when Kolej DPAH Abdillah finally dethroned the reigning champions, SMA Sheikh Hj. Othman Abdul Wahab aka SHOAW after many years of coming close to doing so. And Kolej did by dethroning SHOAW from both categories, the U-15’s and U-18’s, during the Kuching division inter-school U-18’s and state wide U-15’s in Betong.

SHOAW had been the champions since the inception of schools’ rugby in 2000 and finally relinquished their hold on the mantle of top rugby school. Kolej had been trying to knock SHOAW from their perch over the years and have always had to play bridesmaid to SHOAW but they did what no other schools have been trying since 2000, finally.

With 2012 looming, will Kolej be able to retain their title as U-18 Kuching champion and by default, state champion, and U-15 champions, for a second year running? Although Kolej were crowned champions at both U-15 and U-18 level during the schools’ tournaments, they did not sweep all before like SHOAW did over the years in other schools’ category tournaments like the KRFC annual schools’ 7’s.

In this latter tournament, SHOAW, stung by their loss of their crowns, hit back and won the crown again for another year. By winning the titles of U-15 and U-18 schools’ champions, Kolej will be the state’s representatives in 2012 to the MSSM national tournament next year.

In Kuching, 2011 saw a changing of the guard but in the other divisions, the status quo remain the same, with SMK Asajaya retaining their crown as champions at both categories of U-15 and U-18. Asajaya seems to be going from strength to strength, with a number of their players playing in KRFC’s colours during the SRU President’s cup and in KRFC’s annual 7’s.

They also gained some much needed match experience when they went across the waters to participate in the Iskandar challenge 10’s tournament at U-14 level.

Asajaya, like their counterparts in Kuching, Kolej and SHOAW, have set up a development programme, with the U-15’s graduating to the U-18’s as the players progress through the system. Although there are only 2 categories, a number of the U-15’s are actually 13 years old while some of the U-18’s are from the U-15’s. So Wan Ahmad has done a good job in the development of the game in Asajaya.

In Betong, it was SMK Teknik Betong who again led the pack while in Sibu, it was SMK Sacred Heart who vanquished all before them. In Miri, it was Teknik Miri but they did not get to represent Miri at the state level inter-division due to some controversy.

At the state level, Kuching again was the champion after the dust had settled with Asajaya coming in a close second. Will the status quo remain for 2012 for the other divisions? Time will tell, and it is not too far away. This year the number of schools playing the game remained more or less the same in all the divisions except for Kuching and Samarahan where a few schools have stopped, viz SMK Sg. Tapang in Kuching, SMK Wira Penrissen and SMK Taee, for various reasons.

These 3 schools have done quite well in the schools’ tournaments, with the Wira Penrissen, having won the crown in Samarahan. While Sg. Tapang has stopped playing, another school that stopped for a few years, made a much welcome return to the game, SMK Penrissen No. 1, in Kuching. In Samarahan the loss of Taee was compensated by the debuts of SMK Asajaya 2 and SMK Muara Tuang, due mainly to the efforts of Asajaya’s coach, Wan Ahmad.

In Kuching, next year, another school which used to be a power house in the game in the 70’s and 80’s, will be making a belated return to the scene, SMK St. Thomas. They have roped in the services of Francis Sim, a former Club and state player, to knock their side into shape this year. Another school that might be making a return to the game next year is SMK Tun Abang Hj. Openg aka TAHO, who are always one of the schools that have come close.

So for next year if these schools do make the anticipated returns to the game, then the scene will be more interesting but the question that goes begging is, will the other schools step up? Or will it be the same scenario again of just three or four schools dominating the game? And ultimately, Kolej and SHOAW contesting the final while the rest fight for the crumbs? Judging by the results of the year that’s about to finish, SHOAW are going to come back in a strong way to reclaim their crowns, with their team having travelled the state to play in tournaments in Miri and Bintulu, and earlier in the middle of the year, a playing tour to Sabah. Kolej will be out to retain the crowns that they won after many tries and a few of their players have in fact been playing as guests players for the champions in the annual KRFC 7’s, Kuching Politeknik. And Kolej was also across the waters in October for a tournament in Malacca where they did quite well, going out in the semi-finals of the plate category.

In Sibu, Sacred Heart is the undoubted kingpin of the game while the other schools have not really tried to make the effort to dethrone Sacred Heart. The other schools in Sibu that play the game are Teknik Sibu and Sains Sibu but without a coach who knows the game well, they have struggled to make any impact. Two years back, another school, SMK Durin, did join the fray but they dropped out after just one year due to a lack of a coach and have not been heard of or seen. In Miri, there are only three schools playing, SM Teknik Miri, SM Sains Miri and SMK Tg. Lobang and it is always between the former two who win the crown as divisional champions.

For 2012, there might be a school making its debut, Maktab Rendah Sains Mara Mukah aka MRSM Mukah.

At the national level, our schools’ sides have yet to make the breakthrough and win a title during their sojourn to the various schools’ tournaments across the waters like the MSSM national championship, the Cobra invitational schools’ 10’s and the MRU/Milo national U-15 invitational 10’s. SHOAW have been the state’s representatives all these years at these tournaments, and have impressed their counterparts with their technical ability but have yet to make that all important breakthrough to win any of these tournaments. They have managed to enter the quarter-final rounds of these tournaments but have somehow not made that step up to advance into the semi-finals and finals, not for lack of trying but due to a lack of tactical awareness and nous during these knockout stages. This year at the MSSM tournament in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, our representatives, drawn mainly from Kolej and SHOAW, fell at the quarter final stage yet again. Will we make that breakthrough this year and win?

There will be another friendly game today scheduled for kick off at 4.30 pm at the Song Kheng Hai ground.

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