The UAE is a supremely transient place, but Neil ver Weij has lived in the Emirates and been part of Jebel Ali Dragons for 25 years – so victory for his side in the Community League final yesterday was pretty special for him.
When you add in the fact that the 55-year-old played on the losing side in last year’s final, Dragons’ 22-11 win was a fitting way for him to end his first season as Dragons team manager.
“I was still playing last season, I played in the final,” said the 55-year-old.
“From playing to coaching has been a massive difference. My mind still wants to be there but my body can’t. I’m still there living every minute with the boys.
“They’ve been very good this season after an awkward start. We didn’t have a complete team then but we’ve turned it round and become a great squad, with a tremendous spirit. Some boys are leaving so to leave with a trophy is the best gift we could give them.”
Dragons kicked off the inaugural UAE Rugby Finals Day at Dubai Sports City Friday with a victory that ruined Quins’ chances of claiming three of the four trophies on offer.
They were always in control of the game, with Chris Pike scoring a brace and Scott Kerr and Ryan Baird also crossing to seal a superb season.
Having lost in the first Community League final a year ago to Beaver Nomads, Ver Weij admitted Jebel Ali came into the final with a lot of pressure on them.
“There was a lot of pressure on us and we’re up against a very good team too in Quins,” he said.
“We knew today was going to be extremely tough so we had to make sure we played our game, which we did.”
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