On Friday 27 September 2019, we held the ANZCCJ Rugby Charity Gala 2019 at the Palace Hotel Tokyo. The event was sponsored by AIG, ANZ, Atsumi & Sakai, the Australian Embassy Tokyo, and Lendlease Japan. With the assistance of our generous sponsors we were able to contribute to three charities. Funds raised went to support grass roots rugby clinics for Kamaishi children conducted by former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and New Zealand Rugby at the new Kamaishi Recovery Stadium in Iwate Prefecture as well as ‘ChildFund Pass it Back’ and ‘Support Our Kids’. This event marked the second charity gala that the ANZCCJ has held, following last year’s ANZCCJ Bledisloe Cup Charity Gala Dinner in 2018. It was one of our biggest events to date, with over 300 guests in attendance.
A number of distinguished guests were in attendance on the night including HE Richard Court AC, Australian Ambassador; HE Hamish Cooper, New Zealand Ambassador; Takenori Noda, Kamaishi Mayor; Raelene Castle ONZM, Rugby Australia Chief Executive; Cameron Clyne, Rugby Australia Chairman; Brett Gosper, World Rugby CEO; Eddie Jones, Head Coach Rugby England; and Hiroyuki Katsumata, Deputy Mayor of Hakone. (To note: Many of these guests were there to celebrate the night and not as official representatives of their organisations.)
Guests were welcomed to the tune of world-renowned singer songwriter and voice artist Donna Burke and her band Ganime Jazz, who entertained diners throughout the evening, and a Haka performance by Haka Works. We were also honoured to have the Webb Ellis Cup on display in the ballroom throughout the event.
ANZCCJ Chair Sally Townsend welcomed guests to the event and invited Ambassador Court and Ambassador Cooper to the stage to give a joint kampai. Ambassador Court discussed how rugby can unite people and reminded the audience of the history-making fact that this is the first time the Rugby World Cup is being held in Asia. As a symbol to show the pride that exists in working together, Ambassador Court revealed to the audience the world’s first All Blacks/Brave Blossoms/Wallabies supporters’ scarf and wore it together with Ambassador Cooper. Ambassador Cooper emphasised the opportunities rugby creates, not only for business and tourism, but also for the continued strengthening of Japan, New Zealand and Australia relations. He said he was glad that proceeds from the Gala would help young people who have been impacted by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
CEO of Rugby Australia Raelene Castle congratulated the RWC Organising Committee for organising such a special event while noting that the RWC19 will be the most-watched, most-attended World Cup in history. She emphasised the power of community, pointing to how far the city of Kamaishi has come from the devastation of 2011 to a city filled with energy from the Rugby World Cup in 2019. Kamaishi Mayor Takenori Noda reiterated the importance of community, passionately explaining how the people of the town have come together, with the help of rugby, to rebuild Kamaishi after the devastation in March 2011.
ANZCCJ Sports for Business Committee Co-Chairs Matt Walker and Ian Scott then took to the stage to announce three special rugby awards. The Community Award was awarded to Rugby World Cup Planning Committee Senior Director Koji Tokumasu and presented by ANZCCJ Chair Sally Townsend, the Diversity in Rugby Award was awarded to Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle and presented by ANZCCJ Chair Emeritus Melanie Brock, and the Leadership in Rugby Award was awarded to England Rugby Coach Eddie Jones (former Brave Blossoms Coach) and presented by AIG President Bob Noddin.
Door prizes were generously donated by Palace Hotel, Air New Zealand and Qantas and won by guests as follows: Lunch for two at the Wadakura Restaurant at The Palace Hotel: Yukio Osawa; dinner for two at the Grand Kitchen at The Palace Hotel: Amy Fischer; an “All Blacks fan pack” with an Air New Zealand ticket from Tokyo to New Zealand with All Blacks/Adidas sportswear: Midori Kitahara; a “Wallabies fan pack” with a Qantas ticket from Tokyo to Australia with Wallabies/Asics sportswear: Alberto Zanonato.
The night was a huge success. Thank you to our Executive Council members, Chamber members and guests who came together to celebrate rugby for Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It was a true expression of the power of sport in bringing together people, businesses and nations.