Members of the Tokyo Gaijin RFC, their wives, girlfriends, helpers, friends and children gathered at The Beer Station in Garden Place, Ebisu, for their Christmas Party and Annual Awards night. 63 guests and 5 kids in all kept the staff quite busy all evening in an All-you-can-drink-and-eat feastathon. With the men all wearing suits and the ladies looking very elegantly attired it was hard to believe this was a rugby function.
The Gaijin had won 7, lost 2 and drawn 1 in the Leagues they were participants in throughout 2007. Funnily enough, they had lost all 4 ‘Friendlies’ they played through the year. Perhaps it`s a case of a relaxed mindset or that ‘newer’ members of the squad are often given more game time in these ‘practice’ games. There were mixed results at the Sugadaira 10`s, The Shuto League 10`s and The Manila 10`s.
Shall we just say that Rugby was the winner and the boys enjoyed these relatively laid back tournaments more for the festive atmosphere.
Captain Alaister Nimmo and Manager Joffa Harris opened proceedings with a run-down of the year and then presented players with awards.
Captain Al had this to say about the year :
Winning the Shuto League (not quite in the bag yet as we need to turn up to the match at the start of next year) has been a fantastic achievement. We played well in an undefeated run and it was great to see so many Gaijin players selected for the Shuto League representative side.
The Manila 10`s was largely uneventful of course, but winning the "Most Festive" award for three consecutive years has shown that although our talent on the pitch can at times be left wanting, our spirit is relentless. Let's make it a fourth successive year in 2008!
Sugadaira was another much enjoyed tour. Seeing Blake elbow deep in road-kill is fast becoming something of a tradition in the club… wiping said road-kill across the front wind-screen of the car was a surprise, but many of the team members seemed to appreciate the sentiment behind the act.
Tokyo Cup is a challenge I am looking forward to. It was a shame to lose against NC Ruggers in the last of the pool matches. This is one tournament which we could do well in next year.
Summer BBQs and nomikais have been well organized and frequent, and I look forward to many more drinks with you guys in 2008
He also thanked the various helpers that made the year a success: Jesse Takahashi and Joffa Harris for the general day-to-day management of the club and attendance at all the requisite meetings for the Tokyo Cup and Shuto League. Niall Conlon for his organization of the Manila 10`s tour, Steve Bull for his Treasury work and BBQ skills, Joe Fisher for superb coaching skills, Bati for his BBQ skills and arrangement of the Christmas party, Blake Walker for his article writing on this website and general help whenever needed and Murray Clarke for his assistance with the forwards at training and Dave Kelver for his devotion to training and games.
The ladies who helped us out during the year also got a mention which we`ll come to later.
Onto the Awards (from Bad to Good):
DIRTIEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: CHRIS FEARON
Awarded to Prop Forward Chris for his `Boots and All’ approach to rugby and for more often than not, getting the referee and the opposition forwards agitated.
INCIDENT OF THE YEAR AWARD: ALAISTER NIMMO & LONNIE CHIDRESS
Captain Alaister was given this award for going out for a big night in Roppongi before he was due to fly to France for the World Cup. He got home late and ‘shipwrecked’ and either forgot to set his alarm or didn`t hear it the next morning.
In the end he failed to make it to Narita airport for his flight and had to buy tickets for his flight all over again. OUCH! That was one expensive night on the grog!
Lonnie was joint prizewinner for one of his displays of ‘postmatch’ drinking. After one of the Shuto League games Lonnie bought a mid-size bottle of Jim Beam while the rest of us drank beer. About an hour later he was wobbling around witrh a big smile on his dial – probably not even sure where he was. He then went and did a face-plant on the concrete which left him with a few facial injuries. I wonder what he told the boss at work?
THE APPLE OF DADDY`S EYES AWARD: STEVE BULL
Awarded to Steve for achieving something in rugby through his kids that he never quite managed to achieve himself. Steve, who spent the majority of the year on the sideline after a shoulder reconstruction, has probably not even scored 5 tries in his entire life. His son Ricky, aged 8, scored 5 tries in his first game of Rugby and followed it up the next week with 6. His 5 year old twins, Georgy and Andy, have also made promising starts to their rugby careers. They are still a little way off of donning the Gaijins' colours though. They are ‘The apples of their father`s eyes’ ! Their success can only be attributed to mum Mie`s good breeding.
TEAM SPIRIT AWARD: YOSHIHIRO SATO
Awarded to Yoshihiro for his commitment to training and games despite not having had much game time – others would give the game away, but Yoshihiro has showed true team spirit and a ‘never-give-up’ attitude. He is relatively new to the sport and a ‘comparative’ lightweight but has showed glimpses of tenacity on the field when given his chance. With continued training we all hope 2008 is his break-through year.
BEST & FAIREST: DAVE KELVER
Awarded to Dave for his whole-hearted commitment to training and games.
Pissing down rain – no worries….Dave will be there. Sore back – no worries….Dave will be there. It would probably destroy his week if he couldn`t make rugby on the weekend. On the field, while others argue with the referee or get ‘niggly’ with the opposition, Dave just gets on with the game! Hard but fair!
SUPER COACH: JOE FISHER
Joffa runs training if he has to. Alaister Nimmo has done a great job with training when Joe is unavailable. Andy Ballard & Dave Kelver have helped out with the fitness part and Murray Clarke has assisted in line-out training. But no-one has brought out the best in the team more than Super-coach Joe Fisher. Many players believe that our great run over the Shuto League (5 from 5) can be attributed to Joe`s fine-tuning of the players skills – both experienced and inexperienced players alike.
MANAGERS AWARD: ERIN HUGHES & MAURO SAUCO
Every year the Manager of the team gives an award to someone whose help was immensely appreciated throughout the year. Erin and Mauro have been a huge help by hosting one of the best Rugby websites in Japan. The website is Mauro`s ‘little baby’ but Erin has stepped up this year to keep it up-to-date while Mauro has been busy with work and family commitments. Erin has also helped the manager out with gift photographs for the helpers and any other problems the computer-illiterate Joffa has.
CAPTAIN`S AWARD: JOFFA HARRIS
Awarded by Captain Alaister Nimmo to someone who has helped him do his job as Captain. A managerial presence is required in any club, and Joffa filed that role perfectly yet again in 2007. Joffa's organisation skills in sending out emails for practice and matches often go un-thanked. On the pitch, Joffa's arm injury recovered well and he was back in the starting line-up. His inspirational words of wisdom in the run-up to the matches was the cause of his award… a book of Japanese poetry. Most suitable.
Alaister did also mention Jesse Cutler who unfortunately couldn't make it to the party for all his help in the season.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: HITOSHI CHIHARA
Awarded to Hitoshi as the most promising new-comer of the year. Hitoshi was walking past the boys at training one day and asked to borrow a pump to pump up a mini-rugby ball (or was it an American football?). As he walked away we after returning the pump, we called out and asked him if he played rugby. He held up two fingers about an inch apart (meaning ‘a little’). ‘Do you have a team’ we asked. ‘No’ was his response. We told him we trained there every week when not playing and he was welcome to come along and join us. The next week he was there and from that day on he has continued to improve and become a valuable member of the team. He has also covered every position in the backline.
Before we got to the two big awards of the night our major HELPERS for the year were given gifts and a warm round of applause for their efforts. They were Shino Iwasaki, Terumi Nasu, Kyoko Conlon, Blake and Kyoko Walker, Ayako Hokyo, Lucie Ballard, Hiroko Fisher and Natsuko. Others who could not attend but have helped through the year were Jesse Takahashi, Aaron, Noriko & Chie. The team cannot play in the Tokyo Cup without ten helpers every game (manager, scorekeeper, medic, ballboys/girls, waterboys/girls etc) according to the Draconian rules, so the players owe a great deal of thanks to the people who help out over the course of the competition. We wouldn`t be able to play in the Tokyo Cup without them. I should also mention here, though we failed to at the party, that all the guys’ wives and girlfriends deserve a big ‘Thankyou’ for allowing their husbands/boyfriends the freedom to go and play rugby on many weekends of the year (especially the partners of the heavier drinkers in the team!)
MVP RUNNER-UP: PAULO de BERRIOZABAL
Awarded to the feisty Basque loose-forward Paulo by his team-mates for his aggression and non-stop work-ethic throughout the season. He had an excellent Shuto League campaign with 3 consecutive Man-of-the-Match performances. Paulo was so proud to achieve this award that it was hard to get him away from the stage. He even burst out in song, singing the Basque National Anthem.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER (MVP): APISAI BATI
Awarded to our Fijian center Bati by his team-mates for his great runs and strength with the ball in hand, and his ball-stealing and try-scoring ability. Bati finished the year as the top try-scorer with 10, which included a hat trick against Fuji club during the Tokyo Cup campaign. He started the year on fire with 3 Man-of-the-Match awards.
NOTE: A big thanks to Apisai Bati for organizing the Christmas Party at his Place of employment – The BEER STATION in Ebisu Garden Place; and his fellow employees. I think everyone had a great night.
FOOTNOTE: Six Tokyo Gaijin Players represented the Shuto League in the New Zealand Embassy Cup on the 2nd of December against the Tama League. There were two teams chosen from both the Shuto League (13 teams in the Shuto league) and the Tama League. Unfortunately both teams lost. The following guys were chosed for the Shuto League Select.
FIRST TEAM – Will Thompson (Lock), Garrett Washington (Flank), Apisai Bati (center),
SECOND TEAM – Tyler Rumsey (lock), Tucker McEwen (center), Andy Ballard (wing)
* Riki Pitter (wing) was also chosen but had to withdraw through injury