VICTORIA - After three straight losses at the Rugby World Cup in Japan, Dustin Dobravsky and other Canadian players are returning home with praise for being champions of a different kind.
Team Canada lost to Italy as well as two of the best competitors in the world, New Zealand and South Africa. Another scheduled match against Namibia was one Dobravsky thought they could win, though a typhoon threw a wrench in those plans.
"We thought it was our chance to make a statement to show that we deserve to be at the World Cup, that we deserve to be play at that big stage," Dobravsky told CTV News.
Instead, they were shut out by typhoon Hagibis, which tore through parts of Japan. The team’s match in Kamaishi set for this past Saturday was cancelled.
"It was disappointing that that chance was taken from us," added Dobravsky.
The team looked forward to the Namibia game, training for years to improve their skills and to prove themselves.
“We certainly saw in Namibia the chance for a World Cup win,” said head coach Kingsley Jones in a Twitter post by Rugby Canada.
The coach talked about the need to re-group and Team Canada did, but in a different way. The players sprang into action, trading the rugby pitch for brooms and shovels so they could help flood-ravaged areas.
The city of Kamaishi was also hit in 2011 by an earthquake and tsunami. Dobravsky said seeing homes destroyed, or flooded is something he won't forget.
"None of us has ever experienced anything like that before and we just had small bits hitting us up in the north."
Rugby Japan tweeted a statement praising players' passion for the game. The statement read in part: "Outside the stadium, we will never forget your sincerity, integrity and friendliness."
That statement is not specifically about the Canadian Team, but many are praising their actions for the same reasons.
"It speaks about our character as well,” said Dobravsky. “It translates onto the field for our integrity but also it's more important about us being good humans as well.”