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Anger and disappointment, as Montfort Secondary axes rugby as CCA

SINGAPORE — A decision by Montfort Seconday School to axe rugby as a co-curricular activity (CCA) has caused outrage and disappointment among parents and Montfort alumni, who claimed that the school has yet to provide a full explanation on why the sport is being phased out in 2019.

Montfort Secondary School's 'B' Division rugby team (in blue) in action at the National inter-school competition in 2017. Photo: Facebook / Montfort Rugby

Montfort Secondary School's 'B' Division rugby team (in blue) in action at the National inter-school competition in 2017. Photo: Facebook / Montfort Rugby

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SINGAPORE — A decision by Montfort Seconday School to axe rugby as a co-curricular activity (CCA) has caused outrage and disappointment among parents and Montfort alumni, who claimed that the school has yet to provide a full explanation on why the sport is being phased out in 2019.

Announcing its decision in a Facebook post on Monday (Nov 13), Montfort Secondary wrote: “The Montfort School Management Committee has reviewed the Rugby CCA matter thoroughly and has decided to phase out the CCA.

“Montfort Secondary School is working with the students and parents to select from the various transition options offered. In particular, students with a fervent interest in the sport will be aided to pursue it via other avenues.”

Parents of the affected players told TODAY that the school had informed the rugby boys of the decision in mid-October. While Montfort principal Mark Gerard Minjoot declined comment when contacted by TODAY, former players and parents said that the school had cited injury concerns as a reason for axing the sport from its CCA roster. TODAY understands that the school had considered phasing out the sport in 2015, pointing to a lack of results from its school teams - which had previously attained a top six position in inter-school competitions - but was eventually persuaded by the alumni to keep rugby.

An online petition has since been started by former Montfort rugby player Low Feng Hua to persuade the school to reconsider its decision. The petition, which will be delivered to Sport Singapore and the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU), had collected more than 2,200 signatures as of Wednesday evening.

Low, who had previously captained the national Under-23 team, told TODAY that there is a “sense of disappointment” among the Montfort rugby community about the school’s decision.

“Many of the old boys often go back to help the school or support the team at games... there’s a brotherhood among us, we always feel proud to don the school colours, and I personally feel that stopping rugby will not just be a loss to the boys now, but also to the school’s history, and the Singapore rugby scene as a whole.”

Mr Low also felt that the injury concerns cited by the school was not a valid reason, as he added: “As old boys of the school and rugby players, many will agree that we grew up fine with some bumps and knocks during sports... Every sport is prone to injuries, and it’s unfair to single out rugby without considering what you will lose without it - the values you are taught, the discipline and the respect you learn for others.”

Parents of Montfort’s rugby players are upset with the school’s decision, particularly as they feel that the school has not provided a proper explanation to them. Mr Adrian Tan, a parent of a Secondary 2 student, said he had emailed the principal to seek an explanation, but the replies were “vague and inconsistent”. According to Mr Tan, some parents were told that injury concerns were the main reason for phasing out the sport, while others were told that there were “sensitive and confidential” reasons.

Madam Faith Tay, the mother of a Secondary two student, added: “Can you imagine how I felt when my son came home from school one day bitterly disappointed that his CCA is closing down? He, and all the other boys, have put in their blood, soul and spirit into the sport, only for it to be taken away just like that.”

The parents also felt that injuries should not be the defining factor in the move to axe the sport.

Madam Tay said: “It’s very heartening when I see my son get knocked down, only to pick himself up to fight for his teammates and for his school on the field. I know my son is being influenced in positive ways in rugby, building up his perserverance, his respect for others and his responsibility to his team: Aren’t these the values that we want for Singaporeans?”

Mr Joseph Ong, whose son is Secondary 1, echoed her sentiments, as he added: “Of course there is risk of injury, but which sports don’t have any risks? I’m proud to see my son toughening up not just physically, but mentally too.”

Rugby has been part of Montfort’s CCA curriculum for close to two decades, and its school teams have notched numerous achievements in the national schools scene. These include the ‘C’ Division plate title in 2009, and winning the ‘C’ Division Bowl in 2013. Several alumni have also gone on to don national colours, including current national captain Gaspar Tan. Last year, Montfort student Marcus Ng was one of two boys picked by ex-New Zealand player Scott Waldrom to attend a training camp in New Zealand.

SRU general manager George Danapal told TODAY that the association is disappointed with Montfort’s decision, and he is trying to schedule a meeting with the school to discuss the matter.

“Montfort’s decision is a double blow as all-boys’ schools have historically contributed more players to the national team,” said Mr Danapal.

“The timing of the decision is also unfortunate as we recently submitted our development plans for next year to Sport Singapore, and working with schools is a major part of it. If the reason is really injury concerns, then we want to evaluate what we can do better to help Montfort and other schools reduce the risk of injuries.”

A number of parents told TODAY that they will consider pulling their sons out of Montfort if the decision is not reversed. Mr Tan said: ““The school’s motto is ‘Age Quod Agis’, meaning ‘Do well in whatever you do’, does this no longer apply to our rugby players?”

 

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