Team,

This is a lengthy tome, so I firstly apologize.
GAIJIN COIN
A quick thanks to all who attended the AGM. Let's have it be known
that Al has stepped down due to work commitments and he has done a
great job over the past couple of years.

Going forward, as Captain of TGRFC for '08 I am going to be leading
one of Tokyo's best teams in the game the play in heaven. Backed up
ably by Vice-Captain Matthew Downer and a leadership group that can
always be relied on, I am sure we have a great season ahead of us.
More than sure. A note on going forward through 2008. As said above, thanks to Al who
has done such a great job both as player and Skipper through 2007 and
to the supporting crew who have assisted him. I hope sincerely that
will continue as we have some wise heads in the squad and all hands on
deck makes for some great input/insights on our play.

I will be asking a number of senior guys, or guys who have rich
knowledge of the game, to contribute to training sessions and
ex-Captain Joe Fisher will also be welcome from time to time. I
believe the more input we get internally the better, as usually our
harshest critics are ourselves; though Joe, as we know, is a pillar of
knowledge.

In training I would like to see a focus on "skills" and education that
will result in advantages for us on the field. Examples include quick
hands passing when facing a tackler, entering the "gate" to clean out
(and so avoiding a penalty), focus on the tackle area so we know where
offside is and how we can avoid the 3-4 penalties we give away there,
quick ball recycling, binding for counter rucking, etc.

Also, I would like to see us have more consistency in terms of
patterns that we play with. As a starter, I have run a few ideas past
some senior guys and we have something to work on. Dan, Joffa, Al,
Yoichi and Matt at #8, #9 and #10 will be critical in terms of
executing many of these patterns, as will our openside flankers who
link up.

In terms of what I saw as highlights of 2007/08, I would personally
nominate a few games that stood out in my mind as huge positives for
us to build on for 2008/09. They are:

1. The incredibly wet day out in Mizonokuchi where we had the addition
of an ex-Fijian national (Alfie). This game built on the previous win
over a weakened Crusaders side but showed real character in terms of
how the forwards played. We simply destroyed the opposition up front
and scored off a number of set peices (in particular lineout drives).
We did not rely on Alfie at all. It was "our" game. Keep that up. We
need to improve on this still but that day for me felt like a bit of a
turning point. It was great.

2. The win at Kasai-Rinkai Koen which I think was Matt, Garrett, Dan
and Will's first day with the team (or at least the first day I played
with them). As typical in past games (stress "past") we "lost it" with
a few loose heads screaming at the ref (not me for a change!).
However, we defended our line for a long long period and turned the
game on it's head: utterly destroying the opposition with a great
running game, mixing it between forwards and backs. This set the tone
for the next big step (in my eyes).

3. YCAC 2008. This game said a lot about where we have come as a team.
Every single person who stepped on the paddock played their hearts
out. It was one of the best games in recent memory and mentally,
emotionally, physically we outplayed the opposition and they knew it
all the way. We were let down by a referee who failed to spot the ball
being grounded not once, but twice and the only place where we did not
win that game was on the local scoreboard. Set peices were superior
and we played confidently with yet another expansive game. Credit to
the opposition for a good defensive effort but the turn-around from
the nervous breakdown that was "YCAC 2007" (Nov) was fantastic and a
credit to our entire squad and supporters.

4. A few weeks back in Ichikawa against the "Rush". Not sure how
Arthur butchered the match report so badly but that was another key
game in my eyes, cementing the "belief" that we have built. We
defended for a long period again without giving in. We had another
referee who did not seem to be watching the match and he seemed to be
"willing" the opposition along with his whistle. The scores were
tight, though we were dominating the majority of contact and set
peices. I think we all believed in the second half we were the
stronger side and we closed the game out quickly in a 20 minute period
of outstanding running rugby. The whole game was played at pace and I
thought we showed - again - great character to back ourselves and get
the job done.

Anyway, they are the recent games I have been a part of that really
stood out. They are also I believe a credit to Alistair and the
leadership group who have put their hands up on the pitch over the
past year. Also to the lads coming in from the bench and holding their
own, improving week in, week out. The selection of match MVP is
getting harder by the week and this is absolutely the key reason we
are winning and more importantly having fun!

Let's get some good skill training and build-up for the Tokyo Cup.
Let's get in there and make the absolute most of it. We were unlucky
last year but this past 6 months has seen a lot of those "unlucky"
games won simply due to our ability to weather the storms and play
positive rugby, believing in ourselves enough to turn it around.

Two final points: 1) GET FIT. 2) Anyone who "loses it" from now on
will suffer consequences. I say this as a (so far) reformed maniac.
N, C, P [names removed as they got the mail] and myself are probably the worst offenders and I say this publicly so that we make the effort not to let the rest of
the team down through the season. Especially as valuable 1st XV
members, we need to fix those "moments of madness" for the team. I
know we can do it and help the team play positive and win, making the
beverages all that much better.

In the words of the almighty American War President George Dubbya: Being 'em on!

;-)

Muz