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July 22, 2010 / iselgarcia

For the Love of the Game

* As published in Expat Travel and Lifestyle magazine’s Feb-April 2010 issue.

For the PDF version: Rugby[1]

TEXT:

Nothing quite matches the adrenaline rush of playing a good game. Hours of training, physical exhaustion and the occasional injury are nothing, compared to the exhilaration you feel once you hit the sports field. After all, when it all comes down to sports, passion is the name of the game. Everybody knows you gotta love a sport, in order to play it at your best.

And nothing fuels passion more than team spirit: the genuine camaraderie, the mutual love for a sport and the rush of friendly competition that belonging in a team gives.  

Passion and team spirit are precisely what the Manila Nomads Rugby team is all about.

 In fact, with members from all over the world (four chaps I met were from the UK, New Zealand and Fiji, respectively), these two things are exactly what bond them together.

“Someone came up to me at a party one time and asked me ‘Do you play rugby?’”, shares Alex Patrick, a marine biologist from Fiji, “I’ve been playing (for Nomads) ever since.”

“I think one of the first things an expatriate in a new country looks for is a bunch of friends to hang out with,” adds Sam Fogg, from Britain. Their teammates, Theo Ashton and Danny Williams agree.

“And it’s great that we all love rugby.”

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Started in 1914, Nomads was originally the first sports club created for expatriates in the Philippines. Not a century later, it now offers classes like tennis, swimming, squash, cricket, football, touch rugby (for women) and contact rugby (for men) for expatriates and locals alike at their clubhouse in Merville, Paranaque. 

Rugby, which was introduced by the Nomads to the Philippines in the 1960’s, only became regular in the late 70’s. Now, it has an accredited and fully-funded organization, the Philippine Rugby Football Union (PRFU).

“You don’t expect to find rugby here in the Philippines,” says Sam Chittick, former rugby captain from 2008-2009. “It’s a pleasant surprise.”

But this doesn’t mean that Philippine rugby is backward compared to other countries where the sport has been played for centuries, the former captain is quick to add. In fact, he has pretty high hopes for rugby in the Philippines. “The Philippine National Team (of which some members play for Manila Nomads) is second tier now. In five years, they could be top tier.”

And it’s not hard to see why. As I watched the Manila Nomads group together on the field in the gathering twilight, participating in drills and training that could easily daunt even the fittest of fitness buffs, I could only conjecture that only a pure love for the game could keep them out on the playing field.

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That and, perhaps, a growing anticipation for the upcoming Cape Manila 10s, the annual competition hosted by the Nomads and tagged by ESPN Stars Sports as “the best social rugby tournament in Asia.” The competition, of which part of the proceeds go to the PRFU, pits the Manila Nomads against 32 international and local rugby teams over the course of a weekend.

“The Cape Manila 10’s leads up to the HK7’s (the biggest international tournament),” shares Bill Bailey, Manila 10’s chairman since 2007, “It’s the biggest social rugby event of the year. Teams from Fiji (Black Watch), Hong Kong (Pot Belly Pigs), Seoul (Seoul Survivors), Japan (Tokyo Gai Jin) and many others compete with the local teams. (The tournament) is fast-paced and exciting.”

It is also interesting to note that, apart from the usual roster of local teams joining the competition (Alabang Eagles, Cebu Dragons, Manila Japons, etc.), a team from the Philippine Maritime Academy is also set to compete.

Bailey points out that one of the goals of the Nomads is to promote rugby in the Philippines by integrating it into school curriculums and forming local teams.

“The Philippine Maritime Academy thought rugby would be perfect training for their military men.” Says Bailey, “and indeed it is. Rugby is all about skill, speed, strength and, most importantly, team effort. You can’t win at this game without team effort.”

So, what can we expect for 21st. Cape Manila 10’s this March?

“You don’t have to be a rugby fan to enjoy this tournament. It’s a total, family-friendly, weekend experience. There’s something for everyone and it’s a lot of fun.”

Do the Manila Nomads have a big shot at winning?

The newly-installed team captain, Aaron Briddon is quick to answer. “As long as we’ve got the support, we can win.”

The Cape Manila 10’s will be held at the Nomads Clubhouse on March 20-21, 2010. The event’s curtain raiser  and auctions (proceeds go to the PRFU) will be on March 19,2010, Friday lunchtime at the Marriott Hotel. Former ESPN Presenter, Justin Sampson will be officiating the event. Former international rugby player, Joe Roff, will be a guest of honor.

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