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Scoring for Indonesia’s Rugby Family

Jess Djamhoer

Meet Jess Djamhoer, secretary-general of the Jakarta Komodos Rugby Football Club.

Where did you grow up and how did you get into rugby?

I grew up in Wales, in a farming community in Pembrokeshire. I was always a bit of a tomboy and loved nothing more than to mess around with my brothers. My mother used to send me to school in a skirt but I would be wearing shorts underneath and the skirt would soon be stuffed into my bag when I arrived! Back then, girls were not allowed to play rugby but every opportunity I had in school and at home, I would play rugby or football. When I went to university, I finally managed to join a team. Being Welsh, I like to think rugby is in my blood, as my father was captain of rugby at Ellesmere College, where future England captain Bill Beaumont was on his team.

Tell us about your day job and how you ended up in Indonesia.

I was 14 when I placed a map of the world on the wall of my room and announced I was going to canoe around the world, as I had no money for a plane ticket! Years later, I was invited to Indonesia to look after my cousins who were living here at the time and Indonesia became home. I currently work in human resources for a mining company, Macmahon, where I looked after the Indonesian business and now look after the South African aspect of the business.

You’re also a paramedic?

Yes, I qualified last year in Australia. I am lucky enough to be the medical manager for Rugby Union Indonesia and cover events and tournaments for them. I was medical manager for rugby at the Asian Games last year and now we have the Asia 7s Rugby Tournament coming up this month. It is my dream to one day be able to work in the emergency response system in Indonesia and get it to a stage where paramedics are of the same quality as those in Singapore and Hong Kong.

How did you meet your husband, Agus?

Agus and I met on an oil and gas site in Kalimantan. Back then, football was his sport. I like to believe I have been successful in converting him, as he has coached rugby from the first intake of Indonesian kids in the Jakarta Komodos junior program and he is now chairman of the club’s legal entity.

Tell us briefly about the Komodos.

The Jakarta Komodos Rugby Football Club started in 1970, as part of the International Sports Club of Indonesia. It has since grown to include a veteran and a junior program. Today, the Komodos are among Indonesia’s most respected junior rugby development program, featuring competitive teams of all ages from two to 18 years old, as well as a girls’ age-group side.

Do you have many young Indonesian players?

Our junior program includes dozens of underprivileged kids from the villages surrounding our training venue at Jagorawi on the outskirts of Jakarta, while the girls’ rugby team and older boys also draw their members from the local junior high school. Both are front and centre in the club’s corporate social responsibility program.

The junior program continues to grow, thanks to a dedicated team of trained coaches, passionate parents and kids who love to play the game, and also thanks to our sponsors and donors.

Indonesia is soccer-mad. How did you get local kids to play rugby?

Every Saturday, the juniors trained, as we still do, on the fields at Jagorawi, right alongside Kranggan village. When we were training, the village kids would be watching from the banks and after we had finished and were packing up, we began to notice the kids were imitating us by using a discarded water bottle as a ball. The Komodos approached the local elementary school and asked if 20 kids could join as a trial. Those first 20 children are still part of the team. The school has since fed us another 40 students, both boys and girls, and there is a wait list of over 100 kids. The local component is vital to the sustainability of the junior section, as without them we would often not have enough players to field teams in certain age groups.

Tell us about the club’s successes.

The club has seen many achievements, from running our own junior tournament in Bali to successful tours of Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong, as well as a special moment at the end of last season, when the Komodos Under-12s were invited to play in an international tournament in Japan at Yokohama Stadium against teams from Japan, England and Australia. The club is a great place for parents and kids of expat families to mingle with people from different walks of life. Everybody who has been a part of the Komodos always says the Komodos is like a family. We have a saying: “Once a Komodo, always a Komodo!”

After chairing the Komodos Junior Rugby Club for several years, you’re now secretary general of the entire club, while Agus is chairman. How do you find the time for everything?

My new role is certainly a lot less time-consuming than being chairwoman but fortunately, as Agus and I are married, it makes it a lot easier to discuss things in the evening. We wouldn’t be able to do it all without WhatsApp, as well as the huge amount of support and help from other committee members and parents of the junior section. The juniors side of the club would not be where it is today without the huge amount of help with fundraising events, coaching, selling merchandise and attending meetings. Help from the parents is what makes it work.

How does Indonesia fare internationally in rugby?

Indonesia is still very much a young team when participating against far more experienced teams such as Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. As the host of the 2018 Asian Games, the Indonesian men’s and women’s rugby teams played with heart and passion, and they can only improve through these experiences. It is great that we are heading in the right direction, as this gives our local kids something to aim for.

What has been your most satisfying moment in the development of rugby in Indonesia?

I think it is seeing how far the local kids have developed, as well as seeing expats and Indonesians playing together and respecting each other. I will never forget the time when we took five of the local kids to Singapore to play in the Tanglin tournament. This was the tournament where the Komodos got noticed! They lost the first game, as the kids were not sure if they were allowed to tackle hard! They drew their second game. Then, they smashed the next five games, resulting in one of the best tournaments results the Komodos Juniors had ever had. I am really happy with the club’s current strength and mix, and I am sure it will continue to grow.

Do you still play?

My days of contact rugby are over, thanks to a non-rugby related back injury, but I play touch rugby with the Tawons whenever I am in town. It is fantastic fun and a good way of keeping fit. I love instilling the love of the game in children and I love coaching. Rugby for me is such a valuable sport. It teaches respect and discipline and enables kids to become better team players. There cannot be one superstar in rugby. Every player is a valuable player and all have a role in the game. Rugby also has a place for any shape or size player, it is all inclusive. But best of all, once you join rugby, you become part of a family.

How can people get involved in the Komodos?

The Komodos start training on August 24. We train every Saturday from 9am to 11am at Jagorawi Golf and Country Club. And for kids nine years of age and above, we also train on Tuesdays at JIS from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. We welcome players at any time of the season and there is always a free trial before you need to enrol. If anyone would like information on the Komodos, please visit our website or send an email to the Head of the Junior section, Simon Ford, [email protected]

See: Business Profile: Fintan O’ Doherty, General Manager of The Sultan Hotel and Residence Jakarta

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