Tokyo Crusaders winning team against All Jinjan RFC

2012/13 Season

Well, what a season it’s been! Season 2012-13 has surpassed all of my expectations and personally has been the most successful and enjoyable in my four years at the Cru. Promotion to the 1st Division, only 3 losses all season (although Travis lost 4 phones this year!) and the rebuilding and rebranding of the club both on and off the field and it has been an unbelievably successful year.

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to be your Captain this season, taking over and building up the work of Skurry and Woody who were very successful leaders for the club over the past 4 or 5 years. At the end of last season though it was clear that things needed to change if we were continue to be successful, or even exist as a rugby club. Our financial position was very poor and our playing stocks after the earthquake and financial crisis took a big hit as our traditional recruitment sectors relocated their staff to other parts of Asia or cut costs. What it meant for the Cru was a very depleted playing roster and most weekends unable to field a full 15 for the few fixtures we were able to arrange.

During this period we have been very lucky to have had the support of Temple University and Alex Diaz for bringing along a steady stream of young, raw, energetic students keen for a bit of ruck and maul action – sadly for us they were all male! Lift your game Alex! We were also very happy to continue the relationship with the George Washington Rugby Club who at grown during the past few seasons from adding a few guys to our bench, to being half our team on match days, to now being MVP’s and stars of the team week-in weekout! (Obviously, we’re not talking about you
Ginger!).

Thanks to the guys from Temple and Navy we were able to turn the corner and get through some tough times to where we are now a season later – double digit win season, a 12 game winning streak, promotion to the first division, 20 players to games and a full bench, healthy bank account, new and attractive kit and most importantly a return to the Cru socials and after-match functions. We have had some tremendous wins this year, so many backs to the wall efforts that it is hard to single out highlights. For me seeing the progress of players such as Alex Diaz and Koki has been a personal highlight, seeing the dedication of older Cru such as Rich Williams and Sean Gibson, out there at every game, sticking their head in the front row when we were short was a constant inspiration. The introduction of new characters like “Mad Evan” Kerr, Frank “Keep it in your pants” Saffrey and Benji “please somebody feed him” Kunde has been very welcome as the Cru look to continue their dominance off the pitch and late into the night each week!

Our af ter match drinks has been my highlight of the season, giving us a chance to have a few beers together with our teammates and opposition, reliving the highlights and lowlights (Sean) from each game, Tooley reliving his glory years and stories from Cru years past, has been fantastic to see. To me, that’s what rugby’s all about and has helped build our team culture and team bonding which had been lacking in the past few years. Thanks to Tooley’s work we can definitely say the Cru are a team this year, on and off the pitch.

We have seen some wonderful players pass through the club this season and sadly move on as is the case with an expat club. We say thank you tonight especially to Tom, our fantastic number 8 who has had a blinding season and was one of the reasons we were so successful this year – if his fly-half actually passed the ball he would definitely have ended up top try-scorer! We will miss Tom, Phong, Matyas, Melvin, Ginger and Whalley from Navy, Cavan and the countless others who have played major parts in Season 2012-13. Thank you to one and all for your efforts in making this such a successful season.

To those who are staying my challenge to you is to take time to think about your game and your goals for next season. Get fit over the summer, make that starting position yours, get onto the missus and make sure Sundays are Cru day – even better bring her down onto the sideline! It would be wonderful to see a big Cru contingent out in force next season, not only on the pitch but on the sideline. Wives, girlfriends, mistresses, children – illegitimate or not are all welcome!

Thank you to Trav who has been a great vice-captain and has led from the front on the field and been an inspiring player for us all to aspire to. To Gaz and the rest of the committee for their tireless work and support and finally to a man who has been the change and the rocket up the arse that this club needed! Thank you Tooley for making this season what it was, for setting the bar high and for your tireless work off the pitch every week. Booking grounds, finding opponents, getting referees, after match functions, attending meetings – without you mate, we wouldn’t be where we are now, you were a major part of our success this season and we really are thankful for all the great work you’ve done.

Thanks one and all, and here’s to an even more successful season for Crusaders in Season 2013-14.

Evan Hitchman
Captain – Tokyo Crusaders RFC
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