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Hong Kong Open: One Week Until Wheelsdown

April is sweet. April is really sweet. College lacrosse season is in full swing as we head into conference games. The NLL is barreling towards playoffs. The MLL will be starting up before you know it. To the best of my knowledge, all high school seasons are in action. Thousands of kids will be picking up sticks and scoring their first goals for their local youth programs.

Abroad, lacrosse is getting hot as well. The German and the Italian national leagues are in the mid-season. Australian state leagues will be kicking off towards the end of the month. Croatia will be having their first national league game EVER, this month.

Starting in Hong Kong

First up on my list of lacrosse events to hit is the Hong Kong Open. I’ll be on a flight a week from today and I can’t be more excited for it. I’ve had my eyes on this event for a couple years now and it’s my pleasure to be all booked and ready to go in Hong Kong.

We’ll be taking a pretty rudimentary look at the field of 10 teams for this tournament and I’ll state my baseless assumptions and take a stab at potential outcomes. I’ll reiterate: I don’t know anything. I’m just getting my feet wet with the lacrosse scene in Asia after making my way to the Singapore Spectacular this past December.

These opinions are my own, and if you’re going to give me dirty looks in the cafeteria, you’ve gotta relax, fella.

Disclaimer, check. Next up, we’ll announce the two groups of five that will compete for placement over the course of two days in hopes of taking the cup on Sunday.

Hong Kong Open Field

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  • HK Team JJ
  • Shanghai
  • HK Academy
  • Team Siam (Thailand)
  • Taiwan

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  • Beijing Sport University
  • Korea
  • Bayswater Rocks (Australia)
  • Hong Kong Representative
  • Singapore

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Taking a Deep-ish Look

That’s a pretty exciting lineup. Earlier in the winter, Guam, and Okinawa were also included in the lineup, but unfortunately the two young programs were unable to fill rosters and/or make the logistics work out.

Another notable absence is the lack of a Japanese program. The Friendship games are scheduled for this summer in Japan, as well as the ASPACs, but I figured one of the clubs or university teams would make the trip. I’m assuming we’ll see plenty of Japanese players dotting numerous rosters.

Each team will play the other four teams in their group, with the top teams squaring off on Sunday, and everyone else fighting for placement.

We’ll look at Group A first, because that makes sense. I don’t know a ton about any of the programs, but I do know enough about each to make an uneducated guess as to how they’ll place after a quick little blurb about them.

Group A

Hong Kong Team JJ

Hong Kong Team JJ is a team of expatriate players living/working in Hong Kong. Just because you’re from the US/Canada/England doesn’t necessarily make you an awesome player automatically, but these guys will have a serious boost over the other teams in the group when it comes to experience. Simply the number of lacrosse games that these guys have seen and played in will be a leg up for team JJ.

Shanghai

Shanghai is a team I know very very little about. Facebook searches and some Googling has given me a little insight, but really not all that much. It seems to be a team made up of ex-pats as well, with some local talent mixed in as well. My very rough assessment of the lacrosse in Shanghai program is that they’re a few years behind a couple of other teams in the region, but they stack up well against Chinese clubs.

Hong Kong Academy

The title alone is all I really have to make my judgment off of. Hong Kong’s Academy team is probably the weakest of the three home teams, with the team name insinuating these are either younger players or newer players that are hopefully being groomed for national team rosters in the future. I don’t expect a top three placement out of this team, but the excellent developmental work that’s been happening domestically in Hong Kong means these boys cannot be written off just because their team name has the word “academy.”

Team Siam

Singapore vs. Thailand lacrosse 2014I’ll be running with Team Siam. The team out of Thailand will be a mix of Thai national team players from Denver, plus some expats living in the country, as well as a couple friends of the program. While the added talent from expats is always welcome, adding in new faces is always a chemistry question. I think that this is a quality squad with high placement potential. We’ll just have to see how everyone works together.

Taiwan

Lastly, but probably not least, we have Taiwan. From what I’ve seen of the program back in 2014, and reports of booming growth domestically, I’m most curious to see this program versus the rest of the field. I don’t know what to expect. On one hand, they’re pretty central in Asia, with relatively short flights to any number of nations to play. On the other hand, they’re on an island. This has been a paragraph of Brian saying in a roundabout way, I have no idea what to expect out of Taiwan.

Group B

Group B is home to maybe a higher median average level of play, with three potential teams vying for first. Whereas in Group A, I only see two potential options for the winner of the group.

Hong Kong Representative

Scott Browning Hong Kong LacrosseI’ll introduce the home team first. The Hong Kong Representative team will be the “A” squad coming out of Hong Kong. Their eyes are on the ASPAC games in Korea later this Summer, as well as the approaching Manchester World Games in the Summer of 2018 approaching. I’ve come to know the head coach over the past year, and I’m a big fan of the home team. The heavy presence of foreign players living and working in Hong Kong can only be a benefit. A large player base and the ability to continuously play locally has propelled this program forward, and I can’t wait to see the boys play!

Beijing Sport University

Beijing Sport University… yeah, no clue. The Chinese didn’t do well in Denver, but I really should stop basing things on Denver. That was nearly three years ago, and the impression I get is that everyone in Asia has doubled down on their efforts to improve, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Beijing boys have progressed. Playing under the name of Beijing Sport University, I don’t know if this is a club program, a semblance of a national team in preparations for the ASPAC/World Games or what. No clue.

Korea

Korea is a team that I unfortunately didn’t see play much in Denver. I’m expecting this Korean team to be one of the weaker programs as far as stick skills and lacrosse IQ, but I’m expecting this to be a very physically conditioned team in an attempt to compensate. None of that might be accurate. It might be dead on. There might be a large American military presence that I’m not aware of. Once again, I really don’t know. The best thing about not knowing is that I only have to wait a week to find out!

Bayswater

Hey! Someone I do know something about! Bayswater is a club out in Western Australia, and it’s one of the better programs in Perth to boot. With the Aussie state leagues firing up later this month, it’s unclear whether this will be a slightly older squad or a lineup of state league players in their prime getting ready for the season. Either way, you’re going to have experience on their side. Australians have countless more opportunities to play from a very young age in comparison to other nations in the ASPAC region. Good players, even better people. Can’t wait to meet up with the good ole mates.

Singapore

Payu Thailand Lacrosse Singapore lacrosse practice helmet - International Lacrosse

Last, but very most certainly not least, will be the Singapore crew. These guys are a mashup of expats and locals and a little bit of everything. They’ve been playing together for a while now and they really staked their claim after taking second place in their home tournament in December. Youth is their advantage, as well as their vice, on offense. If that isn’t wishy-washy enough, I’ll say the same thing about their defense. The benefits and consequences of age are all over the place for Singapore. What happens next weekend with Singapore? Some goals, some ground balls… *shrugs shoulders*

Predicting the Finish

So I can stop dancing around it, I think the following teams will finish in the following places:

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  1. Team Siam (Thailand)
  2. HK Team JJ
  3. Shanghai
  4. Taiwan
  5. HK Academy

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  1. Hong Kong Representative
  2. Bayswater Rocks (Australia)
  3. Singapore
  4. Beijing Sport University
  5. Korea

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Now, this is based on a couple different factors. I’m betting on Siam to win: A) because I don’t like betting against myself; and B) if it’s a bunch of expats vs expats, I like my expats more than yours. I pinned HK academy at the bottom because I’m of the opinion that an “A-team” out of Shanghai or Taiwan is going to be better than Hong Kong’s “C-Team”.

In Group B, I’ve got the home team winning based on their excellent conditioning, the amount of work they’ve put in these past few weeks, and the fact that Australians love beer. I do see Singapore and Baysie as contenders for the top spot. But, Australians really love beer, and Singapore just has to play absolutely perfectly in both of their games against Basyie and HK to take it. Beijing and Korea might be a tight matchup and I could be wrong about who finishes last, but I really feel comfortable betting my saki money on those two finishing 4th and 5th.

I’d say the same thing about the top 2/bottom 3 in group A, but who knows. That’s the fun part. I don’t. Those were slightly educated guesses and hell, look at me! I got you to read this whole thing!

No Sad Faces Here

I’ll reiterate: No frowny faces. If you don’t like what I said about your team, go out and win games that I didn’t think you were going to win. If you found yourself whining or disagreeing with any of this, congratulations my friend, you have an opinion.

My employment at the ski resort has ended. I’ve moved my life into a 2001 Dodge Ram van. I have a couple loose ends to clean up here in Utah, catch a couple more Utes games, and then it’s the big hop across the Pacific puddle next week!

Later on this month I’ll be catching up with the lacrosse guys in Dubai, and then on to Prague for the European Lacrosse Invitational and the world-famous Ales Hrebesky Memorial.

April is sweet.