The 2021 Annual General Meeting for the nation's rugby association saw two new members elected onto the Board of Trustees. Rose Mae Lanticse of Davao and Ric Bellen of Albay step into their first term. Maxwell Stewart has been reelected and is on his 5th year serving as PRFU's Board of Trustee.
After almost ten years of managing Philippine Rugby’s finances, William “Bill” Bailey has stepped down as Treasurer for the union. The experienced chartered accountant joined the Board in 2012 and has played one of the most important roles the National Sports Association requires.
“Bill has been tremendous, as a volunteer, to oversee all financial policies and processes for Philippine Rugby. It’s no easy task and our association is lucky we had his expertise for close to a decade. Bill implemented a financial policy that has benefited the union for not only the past but years to come” shared Jake Letts, CEO of Philippine Rugby.
Bailey first served as the International Cricket Council (ICC) representative for the Philippines before transitioning across to help the Manila 10s International Rugby Tournament and later found himself joining the PRFU Board after a string of successful Manila 10s Festivals.
"It has been both an honour and a pleasure for me to serve the PRFU Board for nearly a decade. It seems like only yesterday that I took over the Treasurer's role from Peter Lawrence - how time flies. Every year has bought new highs but, for me, the crowning moment was our successful South East Asian Games 2019 campaign, with both our men and women outperforming. Inevitably you meet a few challenges along the way and I think we have handled these pretty well. The last 21 months & the pandemic created the greatest challenge of all - we have emerged intact and with a sustainable platform for the future. My passion for Philippine rugby will most definitely remain and I wish our players, fans, sponsors, staff and new and existing board members the very best for the future,” Bailey shared.
Another long-standing member Jaime Urquijo has also officially stepped down after serving six years, the former national team member of the Volcanoes has also played an instrumental role focusing on business strategy, national teams, sponsorship and development.
“Jaime’s business acumen has been amazing, although he steps down officially we know he’s not too far away, we will continue to look to his counsel as a close member of our rugby community. He’s passionate about the game, he knows a number of people in the community want to assist the Union and he aims to be present in this development also” Letts added.
“It has been a pleasure to serve on the PRFU board over the last six years. Under the leadership of Jake Letts, the union has done an outstanding job in building a strong development program and has successfully cemented the Philippines place amongst the top unions in Asia rugby in both the woman’s and men’s categories. I thoroughly enjoyed working closely with my fellow board members and I look forward to see how the union will continue to build out the presence and impact of the sport in the country” Urquijo added.
Philippine Rugby will move ahead and set a new pathway, now having two female representatives at the Board level along with a wider representation of members across Philippine Rugby clubs, a first for the Union.
“It's a historical moment for Philippines Rugby - increasing female representation on our board to 28% reflects the growth of the women's game both globally and in the country. This coupled with our upcoming governance review with an independent chair will further ensure we continue to be relevant with the current sporting landscape and future trends for growth and performance” Ada Milby, President of Philippine Rugby added.
The national sports association looks forward to the new year, where local competitions are expected to resume after close to two years away from the field.
The Philippine Volcanoes recently arrived home after ten days in Dubai, finishing the Asian Sevens Series in eighth place. With some close results, the team remains optimistic after a two year absence.
"We knew from the start it was going to be a difficult task, after a two year absence, a short preparation period and a high number of new players at this level our goal was to show Philippine Rugby is back and to blood some new talent at the highest level,” shared Jake Letts of Philippine Rugby.
The Volcanoes put forward ten debutants and featured a total of three players from each program that competed in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games where the team secured Gold in the men's and Silver in the women’s.
“It was great to have some quality players return back into the program, who performed well. Kai Ledesma Stroem returned after a four year absence from the national team. He’s been playing professionally in Japan so it was great to have him back and lead the team from the front. Up and coming Ysabel Del Fierro who has represented our First Pacific U18s team in the past also made her debut at the senior level, great to see her come through the youth program also and showcase she belongs in the senior level,” Letts added.
Both teams remained competitive against rivals Malaysia and Sri Lanka, however there was still a significant gap between the top four teams in Asia featuring powerhouses Japan, Hong Kong and Korea. Hong Kong and Korea finished in the top two for the men’s with China and Japan for the women’s.
"The top teams in Asia you could tell had their strongest squad available and were obviously battle hardened before the tournament, they have had the luxury to play together in international competitions throughout COVID. We haven’t had that yet, we will need at least another 12 months before we can get back to the same level of play we were playing at in 2018 and 2019 before the pandemic hit,” Letts added.
The Volcanoes women’s team were on a high in 2019, finishing with a Gold Medal finish at the 2019 Asia Trophy Series as well as a Silver Medal at the SEA Games. The Volcanoes men’s team also had two strong years in 2018 and 2019, recording a third place finish in Asia in 2018 and a Gold Medal at the SEA Games in 2019.
The silver lining for the competition was to see Asia Rugby competitions back on the international arena. It had been 23 months since the Philippine team competed in an international event. The 2022 calendar is looking promising, possibly featuring a total of at least five competitions for each of the men’s and women’s at the top level. Philippine Rugby will be looking to hopefully get back to where the calendar was in 2019.
“For 2022 we are looking at both 15s and 7s, so that includes the annual Asia Rugby Championships, as well as three legs of the Asia Sevens Series along with the Asian Games. We also want to ensure our National Development Programs and domestic competitions are re-launched to ensure our entire rugby community can return to the field,” Letts shared.
Philippine Rugby are in the process of announcing their 2022 domestic calendar, with a sharp focus on preparation before playing full contact rugby again. The union will be scheduling a series of Touch Rugby festivals before any contact rugby is back. Clubs are also expected to start their official training sessions to ensure the players and teams are game ready come the launch of the season in 2022.
“Our member Club teams will focus on a specific Return to Play Training Framework, then we are looking at Touch Rugby Festivals before contact competitions are launched. With a goal to start contact in late March/April if all goes smoothly,” Letts added.
The union will host it’s AGM on 14th of December 2021 to outline their plan of returning to the field under the new normal of COVID-19.
The headline partners of the national women's program is supported by MVP Sports Foundation via First Pacific, with the Men's via Globe Telecom. Both programs are also supported by Philippine Sports Commission as they begin their preparations and lead up to the Asian Games in 2022.
For more information on rugby in the Philippines, you can visit their website www.philippines.rugby
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