In 1951 Hong Kong was still in the process of re-building after the Japanese occupation during WWII. Vernon Roberts, a member of the Hong Kong Football Club, had the idea to introduce a new rugby event to bring together the civilian and military communities. After a particularly competitive rugby season, Roberts’ idea was to pitch the best players in the league against each other, regardless of their home teams, in one match.
Sir Robert Mansergh, then Commander of British Forces in Hong Kong, donated a trophy for the match. Sir Arthur Morse, Chairman of HSBC, as the respected Taipan of his day was invited to be the first Challenger. The event was considered a grand success and was held annually and unbroken between 1951 and 1997. Each year a team made of the British Amy, Navy, Air-force and Marines would be challenged by the Taipan’s team of civilian players. To this day, being invited as Taipan to the event is a significant accolade respected by the senior business leaders in Hong Kong.
Without the British Forces in Hong Kong post the 1997handover, the event was sadly mothballed until it was re-introduced in its current format in 2011as part of HKFC’s 125th anniversary celebrations. The Challenger is now selected from Hong Kong’s most respected and long standing patrons of the rugby community and the Taipan is still invited as one of the leading members of the commercial community. In 2011 the Taipan was Chris Pratt CEO and Chairman of Swire in Asia Pacific and the Challenger was HKFC President Dermot Agnew.