christmas01_big    The Tokyo Gaijin Rugby Football Club had their Christmas Party and Annual Awards night on December 2nd, on the 47th floor of the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building. The event was held early in December as we have games over the next two weekends and some players are heading home for Christmas early. From the 47th floor there was a terrific view of Shinjuku but after about an hour of beer swilling it could have been a view of a ladies changeroom and most of the guys wouldn`t have cared. 62 people were in attendance and most of the guys looked unusually dapper in their suits and the ladies looked lovely in their outfits.

Andy Ballard in his Batman outfit, Jo Iwasaki in his Samurai clobber and Dana Post in his bear (or was it a moose) costume added to the festivities.

          The night started off with speeches from Captain Alistair Nimmo and Manager Joffa Harris. In short they thanked everyone for their efforts throughout the year.

Joffa`s speech was something along these lines:

          It`s been a frustrating year at times but that is not to say that I have not loved every minute of it, because I have. Three things have made it tough. We`ve had a few long term injuries – myself being out for 8 months with a broken right forearm, Steve Bull playing only 1 game before a shoulder reconstruction and many failed comebacks, Blake Walker – out all year, Yoichi Ohira with two broken pinkies, Yukio Suyama with knee problems. (Takashi Mutou was also out for 8 months with work commitments and sadly will be moving to the US for three years in a few months)

We lost last year`s MVP, Ian Roy, but we`ve also had a lot of new guys join the team – and I mean ‘new to rugby’ guys. This is not a bad thing as the nature of our team requires a steady influx of new players but with so many at once and

with our policy of trying to be fair and give everybody a run – it obviously lowered the teams` skill level at times. Hopefully next year we`ll reap the benefits from this!

This year we also had an influx of US servicemen with Jmac, Tucker, Chet, Wade and Ian coming along to join Rob, Dana and Dave. This is good and bad – good because the ones that know rugby play well, as our Runner-up for the last two years shows. Those that don`t sometimes have an American Football background and learn quickly. The bad thing is they are always off overseas trying to solve the situation in Iraq or Afghanistan or some other Arab battlefield  as Wade and Dave were earlier this year and now Dave and Jmac are heading off to do from tomorrow (December 3rd). Rob was also missing for the last three months of the year doing courses in the USA.

By my count we have won 8 and lost 9 games so far this year ( not including tour games in Manila and Sugadaira). If we win the next two we`ll finish with a winning record and then, all things considered, I`d call it a successful  year.

 

This year we lost a dear friend and keen tourist, JohnRawlinson, known to us all affectionately as ‘Horrible John’, to cancer. In his memory we have decided on a new award, ‘The Horrible John Tourist Award’ to recognize feats of mayhem or something memorable from our tours. Ask any Tokyo Gaijin from past tours to Hong Kong or Manila and they would have a story to tell about John (subject to the rules of the Narita Convention). I am sure he would be proud of this honour and hope it becomes a perpetual trophy. We have also renamed our ‘Incident of the Year’ award the ‘Horrible John Orienteering Award’ in memory of the time back in April this year when John set out to watch one of our games but didn`t get there until after it was all over – just in time for the beers.

 

Awards:

The first awards were given out to our tireless helpers throughout the season and especially those who helped us during the Tokyo Cup where each team must provide 8 helpers on game day (Manager, scorer, linesman, 2 waterboys/girls and 2 ballboys/girls,medic) or risk being kicked out of the competition.

Shino Iwasaki, our medic, girl Friday and number 1 supporter, has been at every game and has done an outstanding job throughout the year. Even when husband Jo doesn`t come to games, Shino is there. The team owes her a lot!

Other girls who have helped throughout the year were also given gifts of appreciation. These included Kyoko Conlon, Kumiko Williams & Sayaka Dean (sorry girls, I can`t remember your last names. This can be changed later if it hurts!), Yuko, Kyoko Yonekawa (soon to be Walker) and Naoko.

Gifts of appreciation were also given to Jerry Brady, Paul Williams and Blake Walker for their help during the Tokyo Cup. Blake was also a regular contributor to our website with match day reports. Thanks guys!

The team also thanks all the other people that came and supported throughout the year and helped out. Within the team itself, special thanks to Niall Conlon for organizing the Manila Tour, Steve Bull for organizing the Sugadaira Tour and doing the hard job of collecting fees, Mauro Sauco for organizing BBQs along with Steve Bull, and Jesse Takahashi for going along to all the meetings. Without all these guys and all our helpers there would be no team.

Now onto the players awards:

BEST UNPREDICTABLE PLAYER: Arthur Strang

        For the talented and knowledgeable player who shows up for the occasional game or practice. Arthur was predictable this time and didn`t show up to get his award.

DIRTIEST PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Dana Post

        Dana was sinbinned twice this year about two minutes after coming on as a replacement. Being quite new to the game he was given a rulebook to polish up on those rules.

CROCK OF THE YEAR: Steve Bull

         I think Steve played only one game this year after having a shoulder operation. He also had an old ankle injury – maybe from `Nam. He made numerous comebacks at a few games and training sessions but would limp away soon after.

         Honorable mentions to Joffa Harris who sat out for 8 months with a broken right radial bone; Yoichi Ohira who broke his ‘pinkie’ and sat out for three months and on his comeback broke his other ‘pinkie’ to put him out for another three; and Yukio Suyama who injured his knee early in the year and was not seen again.

HORRIBLE JOHN ORIENTEERING AWARD (aka INCIDENT OF THE YEAR AWARD – Alistair Nimmo

          Alistair failed to show at the Captain`s meeting to accept the award for winning the Sugadaira 10`s and then blamed everyone else.

          An honorable mention to Chris Lucas who showed up at the wrong ground during the Shuto League and then went home because he had used his daily budget.

HORRIBLE JOHN TOURIST AWARD – Jonathon Dean

          John went diving in the Philippines for the first time in his life unqualified and apparently did very well. He also had an episode in Hong Kong for which the rules of the Narita Convention bar me from going futher.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD – Mike Parks

           Mike switched from soccer (or football) to Rugby this year. Being English, he had seen the sport before but had a poor example to follow although they tell me they won a World Cup once. Mike started out on the wing but found his talents suited the forward pack better. He fitted well at flanker but also did a good job when called upon to play second row. He was even our main lineout jumper in one game. He is already starting to look like one of our experienced guys.

PLAY OF THE YEAR – Tucker McEwen

            Tucker was also a rookie to rugby but was classified as too good for the Rookie award. He has an American Football background and speed to burn. This award is usually given for one memorable play of the year but Tucker actually had quite a few. A great team try was finished off by a low diving Tucker against Akanegahama, who he scored two against. A perfectly illegal shoulder charge to save a try in a Shuto League game also sticks in the memory. He wasn`t penalized either!

MANAGER`S AWARD – Jo Iwasaki

           Awarded to a person who does a lot for the team both on and off the field. Jo was a tireless worker behind the scenes, always preparing gifts for farewells and helping out in whatever capacity was required. On the field he is also a very ‘giving’ person, always happy to give new guys a run and willing to fill in wherever needed from wing to second row.

BEST & FAIREST - Takayuki Kitajima

            Awarded to a player who plays hard but fairly and never complains to the referee. Takayuki just missed out on the MVP awards but his honest, hard play is appreciated by his fellow players. He is quiet on the field but always leads by example.

RUNNER UP MVP – Rob Reinebach

For the second year in a row Rob has been voted by his team-mates as the second best player for the year. All the more amazing considering he was missing for about 4 months. If he can manage to hang around for a full year next year he may crack it for the MVP. He had a tremendous year with some huge barging runs from No. 8. I`m sure many opposition players will be having nightmares about his bullocking charges and there were many times when he would leave a trail of defenders on the ground behind him.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER – Alistair Nimmo

A fantastic year from Captain Al who was unanimously chosen as player of the year. He marshaled the troops well all year and led by example. Despite being one of the smallest players in the team he often topped the tackle count and produced some big hits. His speedy service from halfback was often the catalyst for sweeping attacks from the backs. Like our two previous winners Joe Fisher in 2004 and Ian Roy in 2005 Alistair fully deserved his award and we hope to see more of the same form next year.

 

NOTE: A special thanks to Terumi Harris and Jo & Shino Iwasaki for all their help in organizing the Christmas Party and preparing the cakes and awards. Thanks also to Yuko and Kyoko for their help on the night.

FOOTNOTE: Four Tokyo Gaijin Players represented the Shuto League in the New Zealand Embassy Cup on the 3rd of December (the day after the party!) against the Tama League. There were two teams chosen from both leagues (16 teams in the Shuto League) and the following guys were chosen.

FIRST TEAM - Jesse Takahashi (Lock)

SECOND TEAM - Chris Lucas (Prop), Takayuki Kitajima (Prop), Alistair Nimmo