The Tokyo Gaijin players, partners, helpers and friends gathered at Vino Vita restaurant in Nihonbashi on Saturday night, December 12th, to celebrate Christmas and give out their annual Awards. Captain Murray Clarke kicked off proceedings with a run-down of the year that was.

" The Gaijin won 10 games and lost 8 which doesn`t seem like a good year on paper but with the ever-changing player list and a lack of depth in key positions a winning record is something we can be proud of. It also gives us something to work on and improve next year. Our efforts in the Tokyo Cup 1st Division were disappointing, especially our slow start to the campaign. As usual, we saved our best game for the eventual winners - Kurumi Club, and gave them their toughest game of the 1st Division. We need to work on the consistency. Coming second to All Jin Jan in the Shuto League, after losing out by 1 bonus point, made it a year with no Silverware in the trophy cabinet. Once again the consistency was lacking, losing to a weaker club in Fuji RFC, but beating the eventual winners, All JIn Jan 21 v 7. "

Awards were then given, starting with some 'fun, silly' Awards until the big moment of the night, when the MVP was announced. The Awards are listed below in the order they were handed out during the night. With Oakwood General Manager of Japan, Keren Miers, in attendance bearing 2 complimentary vouchers for one night stays at their exquisite Roppongi Central apartments, the MVP Award winner and one Lucky Door Prize winner were sure to go home happy.

The Dirtiest Player Award - Paulo de Berriozabal

Awarded to Paulo for the second year running. He was up against three other nominees in Matt Downer (2 yellow cards), Apisai Bati (1 yellow card), and captain Murray Clarke (1 red card for running 15 metres to punch someone who had just kneed him in the back). Paulo received only one yellow card but was constantly penalised throughout the year for ruck infringements. He will probably claim that he was playing as close to the edge, as the rules will allow, ala Richie McCaw. In many games this year Paulo was the first TGRFC player to be penalised, and it was often for leaving the scrum early or not being bound. He will claim he was just super-keen to get out there and hammer the backs!

The Most Enthusiastic Player Award - Yoz Togo

Originally Tomo Togo, brother of Yoz, was called up (on purpose!) . This was in recognition of all the times earlier in the year that the two were mixed up. I think that everyone has finally worked out who is who. Yoz spent a lot of the early part of the year on the bench but was was still an enthusiastic trainer and prowled the sidelines telling everyone in earshot what he could do if he were out on the field. Enthusiastic to the end!

Best try of 2009 - Ikuo Fukuda

Awarded to Ikuo for what was deemed the best try of the year in a Shuto League game against All JIn Jan. Ikuo took the ball near the halfway line, dummied past a defender, ran upfield and as he approached the fullback, and with winger in support, he dummied again, completely fooled the fullback and raced away to score under the post. Unfortunately Ikuo could not be at the Christmas Party so his best friend and partner in crime, Daisuke Ikegami, stepped up to receive the award and take his scull of beer.

Top Tryscorer of 2009 - Apisai Bati

For the second year in succession Bati outscored all his team-mates including a 4 try effort early in the year against Akanegahama. In total Bati scored 13 tries for the year in 15-a-side games (not including 10`s). Like a fine wine he keeps getting better as he ages.

Most Improved - Charles Joffre

Charles beat out other nominees Andy Ballard, Daisuke Ikegami and Ikuo Fukuda for the most improved player. Charles went from someone who had trouble catching a ball on the run to someone his team could depend on when the going got tough. At early season training we thought he was almost going to throw it in when he continually dropped the ball and 'blew up'. As the year progressed he got better, scored his first try ever in rugby against the Japanese National Deaf team, pulled off a memorable tackle against the Crusaders in a 10's tournament and generally became more reliable and dependable. One suspects that after his work as official translator for the Fiji U20's World Cup team he may have learnt a thing or two.

Lucky Door Prize (presented by Oakwood's Tokyo Manager Keren Miers)

1st Prize - Murray Clarke - A complimentary one night stay at Oakwood's Roppongi Central

2nd Prize - Jerry Brady - An Oakwood sponsored 'Rumble in the Rice Bowl' T-shirt (celebrating the NZ All Blacks match against the Australian Wallabies in Tokyo on October 31st, 2009.

Rising Star Award - Richard O'Shea

With no rookies to rugby in the team this year it was decided to have a best newcomers award. Richard improved as the year went on and finished it with a good forward's try against the Gentle Giants in the final game of the season. His lineout and scrummaging work was excellent and his support play blossomed as the year went on. We expect bigger and better things from him in 2010.

Best & Fairest - Rory Brown

Rory had an excellent year wherever he played in the backline. He excelled behind the scrum but also played well at wing and fullback. He also never yelled or argued with the referee, as many others did, despite some very average decisions against the Gaijin in 2010. In the heat of battle he was as 'cool as a cucumber'. He also never lost his cool with the opposition and just got on with the game. A standout 'Best & Fairest' player!

Captain's Award - Jesse Takahashi

Jesse did a lot of behind the scenes work for the Gaijin this year, as he has done in past years. He attended countless Tokyo Cup meetings and Shuto League meetings and believe me... I`d rather watch paint dry! He also had the unenviable task of being the go-between for the committees of both Leagues and the Gaijin players whenever any trouble developed. He also had to be the 'Official Manager' at all Tokyo Cup games as required by the Tokyo Cup by-laws. Basically he was the 'face' of the team as far as the Tokyo Cup and Shuto League committees were concerned. A tough, unappreciated and thankless job, we could not get on the field without all Jesse's hard work. Thanks a lot Jesse!

Manager's Award (Team Spirit Award) - Murray Clarke

Murray has been captain of the Gaijin for the past two years but this award was not given for his captaincy. It was given to Murray as he went far and above what is required of a captain to ensure the team's success. Taking on many extra responsilbilities like writing match articles, taking over many of the team's training sessions, and searching the internet for training drills and articles on rugby to improve the team's skills show that Murray was constantly thinking rugby (perhaps to the detriment of his family life!). He also took on a very time-consuming fundraising project when he teamed with Oakwood to produce 'Rumble in the Rice Bowl' T-shirts for the NZ All Blacks versus Australian Wallabies 4th Bledisloe Cup game in Tokyo on October 31st, 2009 and also new team polo shirts. Murray will be stepping down as Captain next year to spend more time with his two young boys and with a new addition (another boy!) expected in January he will not be able to devote as much time to the team as in the past. He can rest happy in the thought that he has left the team in a much stronger position than when he took over as captain.

Note: As usual Mauro Sauco, who does most of the team's web design work, Erin Hughes, who also does various computer work for the team, and Yoshihiro Sato, who is always folding jerseys and cleaning up the mess left by other players were mentioned as people who continue to do a lot of work for the team.

MVP Runner Up - Toby Gallagher

As voted by his team-mates, Toby was a deserved winner of this award as he had a standout year on the field. This award ranks him as the most valuable forward for the Gaijin. His endless energy and infectious enthusiasm often spurred his team-mates on. He was regularly the first man to breakdowns, and his speed often saw him make brilliant cover-defending tackles. His lineout jumping was superb - arguably the best in the League! He played well above his weight and fearlessly put his body on the line time and time again.

Most Valuable Player - Matt Downer

Standoff, Matt Downer, capped a terrific year with run-away voting for MVP. He was the 'player that every other player wants to play with' (purely in a rugby sense!). His kicking game was absolutely phenomenal, whether it be short chip kicks, long raking kicks or shots at goal. In fact, his booming kicks regularly got the Gaijin out of trouble and his short kicking game led to many tries. His goal-kicking was around the 75% mark. And perhaps the standout of his play was his defense. He pulled off some huge hits throughout the year and he is easily the team's biggest hitter, causing opposition teams to look at other avenues of attack rather than through the standoff channel. Matt walked away with an engraved pewter mug and a complimentary ticket for a one-night stay at Oakwood's Roppongi Central furnished apartments.

Note: After proceedings the team farewelled Gaz Dalrymple, who is moving down to Kobe to follow his better half. Gaz looked resplendent in his Scottish kilt. We wish him every success down there and hope to see him up in Tokyo every now and then for the odd Guest appearance. If he plays down there we hope to get a team visit organized. Good luck Gaz.