Friday, May 8, 2020
Bay of Plenty Rugby wishes to acknowledge the passing of George Simpkin.
The Chairman of the Chinese Rugby Football Association, Chen Ying Biao, and Wang Zheng, Coach of the Chinese Women's Sevens team, presenting George with a jersey, signed by the team competing at the Olympics this year.
Our thoughts are with his wife Pip and the whānau at this time. Simpkin left us quietly in Waikato Hospital on Thursday says, Bay of Plenty Rugby Community Partnerships and Engagement Manager Neil Alton.
“George will be missed by many people from New Zealand and around the world who had the pleasure to experience his dry wit, passionate rugby knowledge and unbounding positive outlook on life.”
Alton says Simpkin was ahead of his time, always looking at ways to evolve the game of rugby, changing the way the game was played and lobbying for changes to the laws.
“But unbelievable rugby brain aside, George will be remembered mainly for his care and concern for anyone he met often asking them. ‘Where do you want to be in five years? What are you going to do when you go back to New Zealand? Imagine if rugby was played by the PLA (People’s Liberation Army)?’"
Alton says George made his mark mainly in Waikato Rugby circles, coaching Matamata College 1st XV and taking them on a 50+ game winning streak. He went on to coach the Waikato Senior team for 9 years, gaining promotion to the NPC 1st Division and capturing the Ranfurly Shield against Auckland in 1980.
“His greatest impact on rugby was to come. George and Pip moved to Hong Kong in 1990, to take on the Rugby Director role with Hong Kong Rugby Union.
“During the 17 years there; he coached the National 15s and 7s teams, established new rugby clubs run by local Hong Kong Chinese. He also promoted women’s rugby, developed rugby training programmes in schools and universities.
“In his most forward-thinking move, George established strong links in mainland China where, along with his good mate and work colleague KK Chu, they encouraged the PLA to develop a Rugby Programme.”
Alton says George also had coaching roles in Fiji, Sri Lanka and was influential in encouraging rugby to be established in countries like Pakistan and throughout Asia.
George had strong links in the Bay, living in Tauranga and purchasing Kiwifruit orchards. “He was a regular at any 7s Tournament that was run in New Zealand and around the world. George particularly loved the National Provincial 7s, played in recent years in Rotorua and Tauranga. He always admired the amount of talent on display from around the country.”
While in Hong Kong, George built a lifelong friendship with Fiji rugby legend, Waisale Serevi.
“Serevi would always meet George prior to the Hong Kong 7s Tournament, often over a bowl of kava and talking all things rugby for hours on end. He was a man of great mana and he will be missed.