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Filipina DH named one of 8 HK women’s rugby envoys

25 September 2019

Brizuela (left, seated) with HK Island team, this year's Battle of Origins winner.
By Vir B. Lumicao

A 32-year-old Filipina domestic worker has been named by the Hong Kong Rugby Union as one of its eight ambassadors to promote women’s rugby in the city.

Mary Flor Brizuela will participate in the effort to push the growth of women’s rugby in Hong Kong as part of World Rugby’s “Women in Rugby” global campaign.

All eight ambassadors were presented on Sept 11 at the launch of the KPMG Premiership, the HKRU domestic women’s league this season.  

Brizuela (2nd from left) with the seven other women rugby ambassadors for HK

Brizuela, a single mother of two boys from Bula, Camarines Sur, who has been working in Hong Kong for seven years, was specifically tapped to encourage the huge community of foreign domestic helpers in the city to participate in the sport.

Even before her nomination this year as a rugby envoy, Brizuela had already been promoting women’s rugby among Filipina helpers in Hong Kong since 2016.

Brizuela said in an interview that she was introduced to rugby in March 2016 after she was asked to become an Enrich “ambassador” to get more fellow domestic workers to sign up for the NGO’s workshops.

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An Enrich trainer introduced rugby to her as a leisure activity and Brizuela tried it out of curiosity.

“At first, I had no idea what kind of sport rugby was. I’d been playing basketball, ping pong, and volleyball, but never in my life did I hear about rugby,” said Brizuela, a graduate of midwifery and caregiver course from Naga City Foundation College.

Her first encounter with the sport inspired her and seven other Filipina helpers to form a team, aptly called “Exiles,” and trained on Sundays at Happy Valley sports ground. From that core group, Exiles has grown into a 36-woman strong team.

The all-Filipino Exiles team
“Exiles intends to reach out and encourage more household service workers to play rugby and join different friendly tournaments,” Brizuela said.

This way, she said, the team can carry through its vision to integrate domestic workers into Hong Kong society and “help build a global community that nurtures friendship, respect and empathy to everybody.”
That is in line with World Rugby’s strategy of fuelling the sport’s growth by developing women’s rugby to “realize a more equitable game for all”, in the words of World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont.

 “We firmly believe that development of women in rugby is the single greatest opportunity for our sport to grow in the next decade,” Sir Bill has said. “Not only is women’s rugby experiencing unprecedented growth around the world but we are well on the way to realizing our vision of a more equitable game for all through the implementation of our ambitious strategic women’s action plan…”

Brizuela and her team exemplify that vision.

As a young team, Exiles made a “big breakthrough” in 2018, Brizuela said. “We had the privilege to join the Hong Kong Corporate Sevens on Dec 9. On Jan 13, we were invited to play in an international all-women beach festival in Discovery Bay.”

After that, HKRU put her through training and coaching courses, as well as a referee course that she finished on May 15 this year. With that, Brizuela became qualified as a U8 coach and Level 1 referee of the local rugby union.

Brizuela’s skills on the pitch did not go unnoticed. In the last summer league at King’s Park, local team Blue Dragons signed her to play touch and tag, two versions of rugby that require less physical contact.

This season, she has switched to the more physical contact rugby to be able to play for Valley Ladies.

Brizuela says playing rugby since 2016 has changed her life.

“For almost four years of experiencing, exploring and trying new things in rugby, this sport has changed my life in a way. It taught me to keep my eyes on my goals, no matter how unreachable they may seem, and that bumps along the way will be met.

“But it’s your choice whether you want to take a step back or go head-to-head and emerge bruised yet victorious,” she declared.

Rugby has taught her that sometimes admitting weaknesses is the bravest thing to do. “With admission, we drop our shield of pretense, find the courage to face reality and reach out for the help we need,” she said.
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