For fans with a keen eye, they will have noticed that when the Canadian Rugby Championship's Pacific Tyee hit the pitch this season their kit was made by X-treme Rugby Wear. Although X-treme Rugby Wear may not be a brand name every Canadian would recognize, rugby fans as well, the company does indeed have a strong connection to the Canadian rugby community.
X-treme Rugby Wear was started by retired Canadian prop forward Eddie Evans. After retiring from a long 10 year professional rugby career in Japan in 2002, Evans then decided to start up a team sportswear company which focuses on customizing team uniforms for teams around the world. X-treme Rugby wear offers a unique set up which differs from other kit providers. They provide everything from concept to design to manufacturing, all in house.
Aside from his professional career, Evans also enjoyed a lengthy career representing Canada on the world stage. Donning the maple leaf first in 1985, Evans competed for the national team for 13 years, representing Canada 50 times and being able to experience highlights such as three Rugby World Cups in 1987, 1991 and 1995 and being a part of squads that defeated teams such as Argentina, France, Scotland and an English XV side. He was also part of the squad that qualified for the 1999 Rugby World Cup.
When it came to retirement and life after rugby, Evans wanted to be able to work within an industry he knew and enjoyed, that's where X-treme Rugby Wear was born. Aside from providing himself a career after the game, Evans also wanted to stay in touch and be involved with rugby and the community he grew up with; providing an outlet where he could positively contribute back to the community and game that gave him so much during his career.
"I have been able to get so much out of the sport of rugby and the people involved, it now feels good to be able to give something back to a game," said Evans. "I make a concerted effort to keep in touch with the game by still playing socially and in various tournaments around the world. I also enjoy watching and coaching on the sidelines. It’s a real buzz watching the future of rugby and seeing the evolution of grass roots in this sport."
Besides donating kit for the 2012 Pacific Tyee, which Evans saw as a chance to give back to the Canadian rugby community specifically, Evans and his company also do a lot of philanthropy work to give back to the international community, rugby and non rugby alike.
X-Treme Rugby Wear works with different teams from countries around the world who do not have a lot of funding in their rugby programs. They work to ensure that a few of these teams look their best so they can feel more confident as they step onto the field; something a lot of these teams would not usually be able to afford. X-treme Rugby Wear are proud to have donated kit to many underprivileged programs such as the Cuban National Men and Women’s teams, Rwanda, Guyana and Thailand’s National teams, to name a few.
“These are not teams you typically think of as rugby power houses,” explains Evans. “But these are, in essence, the future of rugby growth and were the most need is. Nobody is sponsoring these teams as there is just typically no financial return in it.”
Outside the rugby world, Evans, who works mainly from his Bangkok factory and offices, is busy working with the less fortunate communities of Bangkok.
Creating a program called Nak Suu, translated to "Tiger Warrior"; the youth program supports children in four different communities within Bangkok. Working with around 250 boys and girls between the ages of 5-17, Nak Suu introduces these children to the game of rugby and the positive culture that comes with the game.
Evans explains that, “The sport is just a vehicle for the program and it's more about keeping the youth on a positive track, part of a greater and broader mentorship and life skills program. It helps the children with creating a sense of belonging and accomplishment. We have many dedicated volunteers who work with the kids helping them realize their goals in, not only sport but, life.”
They help them with planning, organizing, learning English language skills, teach them life skills, many of the same lessons and skills that Evans himself picked up over the years from playing and growing up with rugby.
"I get so much enjoyment from my work with these kids, giving them the chance to open up more opportunities for themselves”.
The funding for this program is derived through donations from kind individuals, rugby clubs and also the annual Bangkok International Rugby Tens tournament, which will be held for the 8th time next February with 100% of profits being channeled into the Nak Suu program. The event involves junior, senior and veterans’ rugby, often involving former internationals but primarily remains a social tournament (www.bangkokrugby10s.net).
"Rugby gives many a gift for life during and after you stop playing,” said former Chairman of the Rugby Canada Board of Directors, Rick Bourne. “It is wonderful to see a former national player such as Eddie Evans, who gave Canada 100% while he battled on the field for his country, now giving back to the community."
As the sport of rugby continues to expand in Canada, and around the world, the X-treme Rugby Wear name will surely be popping up more and more in the global rugby community. As for Eddie Evans, well he is just happy to have the opportunity to pay it forward to others, as many people had done for him in the past.
"When you have been as lucky as I have been, you always have to ask yourself what can I do after rugby," says Evans. "There are many rewards out there but you always have to remember where you came from."