In the seven-a-side version of the rugby,players with a good sprint are prized possessions for any team. And when it comes to sprinting,Tom McQueen is one of the swiftest in Asia. In fact,the Hong Kong national team winger’s abilities are vital to his side’s style of play. “My job is to finish off the move,” says McQueen. “My teammates do all the work in the middle,they get the ball and pull away defenders. I just have to take off on the wings and score the try,” he says,pointing at his teammates in the background. McQueen’s performance was one of the driving forces that led his side to victory at the Mumbai leg of the Asian Rugby Sevens over the weekend.
Charging up and down the flanks on Bombay Gymkhana’s rain-drenched ground,Hong Kong’s number 11 noticeably stayed away from the center of the field. Hugging the wing of the pitch,McQueen used his pace wisely and effectively to dodge incoming tacklers. He would often break free of the defence and score a try unchallenged,but on the few occasions that he would get tackled,he did just enough to ensure the ball was passed to another teammate. His performances led some of the officials in the organisers area dubbing him ‘a real flyer.’
Born and brought up in Hong Kong to a Scottish father and an English mother,the 23-year old has been playing rugby since he was six when he joined the Kai Tak Tigers club. “I copied my brother,Alex at school. He was a year ahead of me and used to play rugby at the club. So I started playing as well,” he says. Going along with the trend of copying his brother,McQueen soon started taking part in basketball as well,though it would prove to be a very short-lived experience. “I was an average player at basketball,but I played rugby much better. So it was an obvious decision for me to focus on rugby,” he says.
While playing rugby as a mere hobby during his school days,the winger claims to have started taking the game seriously while studying at a boarding school in Australia during his last two years of high school. “Some of my classmates got drafted into some big clubs in Australia,” he explains. “I got a little jealous because I wanted something like that for myself as well. And so i started really applying myself and doing extra training to get better at the game. I was already in the Hong Kong under-20 squad,but all that extra training paid off because I started performing very well.”
Playing in the junior squad for two years saw the youngster hit top form once he returned from Australia. His performances earned him a call-up into the national side at the age of 18. “The transition from the junior to the senior team was not too big for me because I play on the wing. If I was a more central player who had to go for tackles or get tackled,it would have made a big difference because,obviously,men are bigger than boys,” he explains. “I try running away from people more than running into them,” he adds lightly.
With his elder brother Alex also in the Hong Kong side,McQueen admits to have had a sibling rivalry earlier. “It died down about when I turned 16. We used to keep fighting over who was the faster one and who could jump higher,” he says. “Naturally,I’m the faster one and the more handsome one,” he adds jovially after noticing Alex listening in from the back.
With McQueen scoring in the final against Japan,Hong Kong’s win in the Mumbai leg leaves them trailing the Japanese side 2-1 in the Asian Seven Series. The Singapore leg of the tournament is scheduled to take place next month,but Hong Kong would be looking to continue their form. “We lost in Malaysia and Thailand against Japan,and both games were lost in the last play,” says McQueen. “That may not be good memories but it has actually motivated us to get back to winning ways and try and win the series again,” he concludes.