The Dubai Beaver Nomads were crowned winners of the inaugural UAE Community League last weekend with a 34-23 win against rivals Jebel Ali Dragons 3rds.
They may have a comical name, a smiling animated beaver adorns their tops and they play in the third tier of UAE domestic rugby, but nine wins and an unbeaten season must be taken seriously.
The Nomads have been wandering around UAE rugby circles for nearly two decades, but only became a 15s team for the first time this season, so to have won the Community League at their first attempt is some feat.
Outgoing chairman Daniel Whitley has been in the Emirates since 2009 but is heading home to the UK next week and couldn’t have wished for a better send-off.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything better in my last game for the club and in the last game of the season than to win the league,” said the 34-year-old Scouser after seven years in the UAE.
“It’s great to end my time on a high. It was a tough game against Dragons. They were our strongest test of the season and something had to give. We played well and deserved it.”
Something did indeed have to give, with the league’s only unbeaten sides clashing at the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence on Friday.
Just four points separated the Nomads in first and second-placed Dragons, the win securing the title for Nomads and maintaining their superb 100 per cent record.
“It all worked out, I think it was fate. I’m very proud to have won it and it’s the perfect send-off for me,” said Whitley, who was instrumental in setting up the Community League for the 2015-16 campaign.
Whitley, an associate with Mott MacDonald, the global management, engineering and development consultants, decided to contact the UAE Rugby Federation about establishing a social 15s league in 2014, working alongside representatives from Dubai Sharks, Arabian Knights and Barrelhouse Warriors.
“After playing a number of friendlies with our friends at the Sharks in 2014 we decided we wanted to play more regularly but were not ready to commit to the UAE Conference, as we had families and other commitments,” said Whitley.
“We approached the UAE RF with the idea of creating a new league for development stage rugby.”
Teams consisting largely of veterans and players completely new to rugby competed on a bi-weekly format that didn’t require 100 per cent commitment, but has proved hugely popular and successful.
“I couldn’t have dreamed we’d win it, we just wanted to just give it a go,” added Whitley.
“It was a bit of a risk, but it worked. We played Dubai Wasps and Sharjah Wanderers in pre-season which were close games, so we knew we had a good team, but to win the league is a massive achievement. It’s been a great success for us as a club and for rugby in the region.”
Winning the Community League does not bring with it promotion to the Conference for now, but under new chairman Karl McGowan, perhaps Nomads will rise through the ranks in the future.
Whitley added: “Maybe we could go up later, but for the time being, we’d like to maintain what we’ve got. I’m sure Karl will do a great job and build the club further.”
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