Our final article in this week’s ‘State of the Union’ series is on Malaysia, the host union for the forthcoming Asia Rugby Division 1/RWC 2019 Qualifier, which starts tomorrow in Ipoh.
Malaysia sits alongside Sri Lanka in having an entrenched history of Rugby since the ‘Malaya’ colonial days prior to the 2nd World War. Thereafter, the Game continued to thrive with various British and also New Zealand military advisory presence in the country providing opposition to many local clubs until as late as the mid-1970’s. Kuala Lumpur’s COBRA club claims to have started the 10-a-side variation of the Game in 1967.
In 2016, the union calculated 55,350 registered and unregistered players at 685 schools and 85 clubs across the country. Any visitor to the country who follows the local sports media is surely impressed by the avid coverage of the local sports scene and Rugby has to compete for its share of the back pages. A number of Fijians ply their trade in the country as Development Officers for clubs, which they then play for in an entrenched and busy – year long – rugby calendar, which features a myriad of privateer 7’s and 10’s tournaments, often with huge numbers of teams across multiple pitches, alongside the union’s competitions, which, until the end of 2016, were:
- The NICC National Divisions 1 and 2 leagues over 4 weekends in January and February. The top 2 clubs/teams in Division 1 were then promoted to:
- The MRU Super League: For many years the MRU’s pinnacle competition, featuring 12 clubs/teams over 11 weekends from February to May. The bottom 2 clubs than played in the following year’s NICC Division 1 (1 above). The Super League was then followed by:
- The MRU Super Cup over 1 week in May, featuring the top 7 Super League clubs plus the Sandakan Eagles club from Sabah in East Malaysia – to give the strong, but geographically isolated Borneo club a week of competitive men’s 15’s matches.
However, starting this year, the MRU – now called Malaysia Rugby – has replaced the NICC and Super League with the Malaysia Rugby Championship. This comprises 4 Divisions: the Premier Division (12 teams); Division 1 (12 teams); Division 2 (12 teams) and the East Division (6 teams).
There will then be a play-off ‘final’ between the Champions of the Premier Division and the East Division.
This is a pilot project ahead of the hugely exciting prospect of a professional club competition starting in 2018. Discussions are ongoing with potential broadcast partners and sponsors. Asia Rugby followers may recall the MRU’s recent media release featuring celebrity owner of Air Asia, Tony Fernandez, who is now supporting Malaysia Rugby. If such a competition can be brought about, it will provide a new pathway in Asia for existing and would-be professional players, alongside Hong Kong’s 6 team Premiership; the few ‘Company’ teams in Korea and, of course, the Japan Top League and 2nd Division.
In addition, Malaysia Rugby sanctions and administers the annual, historic and prestigious Piala Agong King’s Cup, played for by the 12 provincial State Unions’ teams and the Police and the Armed Forces. This league is played in November and December. His Excellency, The King is Patron of the MRU and the State finals can often attract crowds of 20,000 or so, such is the enthusiasm for high profile domestic sports events in the country.
Ahead of tomorrow’s kick offs, Asia Rugby spoke to the Head Coach for this year’s squad, Lee Nyuk Fah, himself a well-known and popular figure in Asia Rugby circles since his playing days as a renowned Front Rower for the national team
Lee told Asia Rugby: “The Core of the squad is same as last year. We have just been down to Perth, Western Australia for an 8 day training camp, including 2 matches against local club side, Palmyra and another against Emerging Force, the Super Rugby franchise’s Academy.
“Key players for us this year will once again be no 8, Etonia Saukuru ( Keris Conlay), but he may not start due to ankle injury picked up in the in the recent Langkawi 7s. We’re also expecting more stand-out performances from outside centre, Jone Marawa Nasolo (also Keris Conlay), who usually thrills the crowds with his running and handling skills. Team Captain Syahir Asyraf Rosli (COBRA) feels that this is our strongest squad yet, so we hope we can repeat last year’s success for our home fans and go that one step further to the highest level we can and get into the Asia Rugby Championship next year.”
Asia Rugby viewers should also look out for Malaysia’s two professional players back from Japan: Mark Wong (Hino Red Dolphins) and Dineshwaran Krishnan (Yamaha Jubilo). Krishnan is sure to feature with his powerful ball carrying and height for aerial exchanges. Former Samoan Under 19, Saa Faalupega (COBRA) also returns after a long break from the Game.
Whether or not the raucous Malaysian ‘Ultras’ fans make it up to Ipoh with their songs and drums, an added incentive to win the league and promotion to next year’s ARC, to continue on the Rugby World Cup pathway, has been offered by Malaysia Rugby President, Dato’ Shahrul Zaman, who has promised the squad a MYR 100 000 (USD 23,000) win bonus.
Malaysia currently sits 54th in the World Rugby rankings and will play the following matches:
All matches can be viewed live on:
www.rugbypass.com in Asia;
Astro TV and Astro HD In Malaysia;
SKY new Zealand Rugby TV 64 In new Zealand
Our Facebook Page across the rest of world
The Malaysia Squad
- Muhammad Syabil Bin Laila (Politeknik Mas)
2. Nazuridin Bin Abdul Latiff (UPM Angels)
3. Nathaniel Tan Aik Ming (Sandakan Eagles)
4. Amirul Bin Sani (NS Wanderers)
5. Dineshwaran Krishnan (Yamaha Jubilo, Japan)
6. Saukuru Etonia Vaqa (Keris Conlay)
7. Mohd Nurazman Bin Ramli (UPM Angels)
8. Mohamad Amin Bin Jammaludin (COBRA)
9. Amirul Mukmin Bin Amizan (SSTMI)
10. Muhammad Azim Bin Nazri (Keris Conlay)
11. Asroy Alhamdy Tengkel Bin Mohd Rizal (Iskandar Raiders)
12. Mohamas Syahmi Afiq Bin Edan (UITM Lions)
13. Mohd Farid Bin Sujari (Mersing Eagles)
14. Mohamad Aliff Al Hafiz Bin Abdul Karim (UPM Angels)
15. Syarif Nurhidayat Bin Muzhaimey (ASAS RC)
16. Mohd Syahir Asraf Bin Rosli (COBRA)
17. Wan Mohammad Asiraf Bin Norudin (Iskandar Raiders)
18. Muhammad Amirul Aqil Bin Kamsol (NS Wanderers)
19. Badrul Bin Muktee (Sandakan Eagles)
20. Mohamad Aman Bin Jamaludin (JLI Diraja)
21. Nasolo Jone Marawa (Keris Conlay)
22. Mohd Azmir Bin Zanul Abidin (NS Wanderers)
23. Tamanisau Samuela (NS Wanderers)
24. Wong Wye Wye (Hino Red Dolphins)
25. Mudd Nur Ikqwan Bin Nordin (UPM Angels)
26. Mohd Fairuz Bin Abdul Rahman (Keris Conlay)
27. Saa Faalupega (COBRA)
28. Vunimoku Tioci (Mersing Eagles)
29. Ravidi Sakiusa Terence (Sandakan Eagles)