2008 was a good season for the Tokyo Gaijin, winning many more games than we lost, ending as Finalists for the 2nd Division Tokyo Cup and undefeated Champs in the Shuto League. Here is a run down of what went on in terms of Awards and Merits for the 2008 season.

First however, special thanks must go to Bati Apisai and Joffa Harris for organizing the event, Mike Tokue for providing a fantastic slide show as the entertainment and Erin Hughes for providing an excellent video of his experiences with the team.

The Invisible Man Award – Steve Bull

Awarded to Steve for being unsighted most of the year. I think he may have turned up to two games and actually had to be introduced to some players at the Christmas Party. Noticed all the more as he was supposed to be collecting fees off players but was rarely around to do it. Dave Kelver had to step in at the back end of the season to collect fees or the club would have had a big hole in its bank account.

The Dirtiest Player Award – Chris Fearon & Paulo de Berriozabal

Awarded to these guys for very different reasons. Chris, having won the award for the second year in a row, is known for ‘sticking the boot in’ and likes to play ‘rough’. Paulo, on the other hand, claims not to be a ‘dirty’ player but is constantly penalized for indiscretions around the ruck area. He just can’t keep his hands to himself! He was the only player to be sin binned this year (although Matt Downer spent 2 minutes on the sideline at the Manila 10`s for lashing out at a player he claims had kicked him while he was on the ground).

Mr. Tardy Award – Lonnie Childress

Lonnie truly deserved this award, managing to be late every weekend (at least from my memory). When the team was just about to leave the gathering point (usually a train station) there would invariably be a c-mail, e-mail or phone call from Lonnie saying he would be half an hour late. He must have spent lots of extra cash on solo taxi rides to far-flung rugby fields this year. What’s more, he took the day off work for the Christmas Party and still managed to be half an hour later (and I don`t think he wears makeup!).

The lost in Translation Award – Paulo de Berriozabal

Formerly known as the Most Valuable Penmanship Award (MVP), this award was given to Paulo for providing his team-mates with many hours of enjoyment reading his many e-mails. While English is not Paulo's native language his sense of humour does translate - just in an even funnier way. Many of his mails didn’t make sense and many were very humorous – even if Paulo didn’t mean for them to be. Lovely turns of phrases included: "CHOP CHOP hurry up that Joffa is waiting" and "so come on, hurry up and remember to spell well my name you bloody iletrates: P-A-U-L-O B-E-R-RI-O-Z-A-B-A-L!" or"'Man, where do the years go?' ....Probably they are hide under the big and hairy MATTO GROSSO that you in an obsolete use of the English vocabulary...call HAIR???". Say what?

Tackle of the Year – Jo Iwasaki

While there were some fine tackles made by the likes of Al, Matt, Kevin, Saki and Big Joe and others through the year, Jo Iwasaki won the prize for a particularly big tackle against the Donkey's. The tackle was made late in the first half after a period of continued pressure on our line. With what looked like an overlap on the outside, the Donkey's sent the ball to their inside center who received the ball and an incoming Jo Iwasaki a split second later. It sparked the team and proved to be a turning point in a match that we went on to win comfortably.

Try of the Year – Yoichi Ohira

Yoichi scored a fantastic try against the Microsoft Sharks during the Shuto League season. Before the game he was complaining about his lack of fitness but with Matt Downer out injured he controlled the game well at standoff (he can play anywhere in the backs but his usual position is wing). Just before halftime in the game, Yoichi took a ball from his halfback just inside his own half, faked to kick and ran hard through the on-coming defenders. His clean break took him through the centers and rushing flanker. As he approached the fullback, and spoiled for choices with Apisai Bati on his inside and Joe Nawaqavanua on the outside in support, he dummied and shimmied to fool the fullback and turned on the speed to race away from the covering wingers and score under the posts.

NOTE: The best team try was scored by Justin ‘Scoobie’ Mynar. The move started with Joffa Harris taking a kickoff and passing onto Garrett Washington. The ball was passed out along the line to the wing where it was quickly recycled back to Washington & Harris and finally onto Scoobie who raced the last 25 metres to score (and he`s a prop!).

Top Try Scorer – Apisai Bati

For the second year in a row Bati has topped the try-scoring list. He scored 10 tries in the regular season and a few more in ‘friendlies’ and 10`s tournaments. His biggest haul was a hat trick against the All Quiet Typhoon (the Japanese National Deaf Team). His try scoring feats helped the team achieve many victories.

Team Spirit Award – Yoshihiro Sato

Despite still learning the game, Yoshihiro has shown a keen desire to improve. Even though many would contemplate giving the game away due to lack of playing time he continues to come to all training runs and games and never complains about anything. It is due to this positive spirit that Yoshihiro was given this award. What’s more, he is often seen folding up the dirty jerseys after games when guys who have just played are standing around slurping beers. He has helped out wherever he can and it is this kind of spirit that every team needs. Every team needs a Yoshi!

Most Improved Player – Erin Hughes

Erin went from being a regular bench-warmer in 2007 to someone his team-mates had confidence in starting with in the lock forward position in 2008. You didn’t find him defending behind the fullback as some had seen in his first year in 2007. He also inspired his team-mates with his enthusiasm.

Rookie of the Year – Takeshi Ochiai

Takeshi joined the team after a couple of years over in England. Being naturally quiet people hardly noticed him at first. Towards the end of his first year at the club though, people were starting to notice what he did out on the field. Despite probably being the lightest lock the TGRFC have ever had he played well above his weight. He constantly pulled off copybook ‘grass cutter’ tackles throughout the year and was running more confidently with the ball as the year progressed, showing a neat sidestep.

Manager’s Award – The props: Takayuki Kitajima, Rob Poulton, Chris Lucas, Chris Fearon, Joe Fisher and Justin ‘Scoobie’ Mynah

The team cannot get out on the field without props. It is a position that cannot be filled easily like wing or flanker. Manager Joffa Harris gave his award to the ‘big boys’ of the team for never leaving us in the lurch. The prop forward position is one that rarely gets recognition but between them, these boys always gave our scrum a solid anchor, lifted in line outs and ground their way through the rucks and mauls, even being on hand to score a few tries in open play.

Captain’ Award – Jesse Takahashi

Just as we cannot get out on the field without props, the team would not have been able to get out on the field without the efforts of Jesse Takahashi. Jesse attended all Tokyo Cup and Shuto League meetings. He was also the trouble-shooter between the team and the respective committees of the two leagues – a tough and thankless task.

He also turned up to be the ‘official manager’ at Tokyo Cup games as required by the Tokyo Cup by-laws. With almost 2 years out of the game since he broke his ankle most of the team are eager to see Jesse back in action and not getting frustrated with the Tokyo Cup committee on the sideline.

Most Valuable Player Runner up – Matt Downer

Matt capped a terrific year with runaway voting for the Runner up Player of the Year.

It was obvious that everyone valued his leadership as vice-captain and appreciated the way he led the backs around the field from standoff. His tackling was a standout and he regularly pulled off some of the biggest hits on rugby days (as opposed to Friday & Saturday nights). His kicking in general play was also exceptional and allowed the team to get out of some sticky situations and at other times to get deep within the opposition’s territory.

Most Valuable Player – Kevin Rebay

Kevin was a unanimous choice as Player of the Year with a big lead in the voting. Despite joining the team late in the Tokyo Cup campaign he quickly became the first forward chosen each weekend and regularly put his stamp on the game with some storming runs and dynamite defense. His work around the rucks was tireless and he often caused opposition teams headaches. He won quite a few Man of the Match Awards throughout the Year for his ‘workhorse’ style of play.

NOTE: Others to figure prominently in team voting were Murray Clarke, Garrett Washington, Joe Nawaqavanua, Alaister Nimmo, and Apisai Bati.