All,

ImageAs most of you know, I'll be heading back to New Zealand on Monday and I just wanted to send everyone a message to say thank you for your company over the past 18 months.

When I first arrived in Japan in May 2003 I e-mailed all three gaijin rugby clubs (TGRFC, YCAC, Crusaders) to say I was interested in playing rugby as soon as I could get Sundays off from NOVA. All three replied inviting me to join them, but only Joffa continued to keep in touch to check whether I was available yet. His persistence paid off because I decided to ply my trade for the Tokyo Gaijin when my schedule changed. So after four months and a change of schools I finally made my debut for the team on my first free
Sunday (6 September 2003). The pitch was dirt, the team were fighting amongst themselves, and the match got called off 20 minutes early because of an irate groundsman. Joffa has since remarked that he was surprised I came back for a second week! I did though and since then I've been proud to play another 28 games for the Gaijin, captaining the team for 20 of those matches.

In addition to matches for the Tokyo Gaijin RFC, I also managed to represent us in a couple of games for the Santama League in late 2003 and play 17 matches for the Shimizu Blue Sharks in 2004 (set up by Garna Dowling, another Gaijin connection).

It has been an absolute pleasure and honor to play for the Gaijin. I've especially enjoyed captaining the team over the past year. I'm pleased that we managed to win more than we lost (12 to 8), but more important than that is the team spirit I feel we've developed. When I got the captaincy on 31 January 2004, I wrote down two goals for myself:

i.) To earn the respect of my team-mates.
ii.) To help improve team spirit and playing standards, leaving the team stronger than I found it.
I hope I've managed to achieve these goals. If I have, it's because of the hard work put in by all of you.

There have been so many highlights during my time with the team that it's difficult to name them all, but the following stand out as extra special memories:

i.) Winning our 2004 Tokyo Cup semi-final 17-10 after being 0-10 down after 60 minutes.
ii.) Going to Sugadaira with the team.
iii.) Winning the Ichihara league.
iv.) Winning against Waikiki Banians in my last XV's match for the team.

v.) Going to Manila with the team - reaching the Plate semi-final and
winning the Most Festive Team award.
vi.) Seeing Joffa shake a ref's hand (Ed Gardner after the YCAC match)!

This is a truly special club. I can only hope that everyone enjoys their
time within it as much as I have. Thank you to all of you for allowing me to do that.

All the best,

Joe.