Bob Dwyer’s rugby canons

By Kenneth De Silva
“You need to have the courage and self-confidence to risk failure in order to achieve success”- Dwyer

Wesley College celebrated 50 years of rugby by holding an inter-school invitation 10-a-side rugby tournament followed by a grand banquet at the TransAsia Hotel last Sunday. The guest speaker at this banquet was Bob Dwyer, the coach of the 1991 World Cup winning Australian rugby team.
Dwyer was Australia’s most renowned and successful rugby coach who in his 10-year period guided the Wallabies to achieve a winning strike rate of 70 per cent in their matches.
The Australian Government honoured Dwyer by awarding him the ‘Centenary Medal’ in 2003 and ‘The Order of Australia’ in the following year for his services to rugby union and the community.
After he relinquished his post as Australia’s rugby coach, Dwyer took on an assignment as coach at Leicester in England. Martin Johnson, England’s 2003 World Cup winning captain was playing for the Leicester Tigers at this time. In his autobiography, Johnson attributes one chapter of his book to Bob Dwyer under the heading - ‘Barbed Wire.’ Dwyer was a tough no-nonsense coach about whom Johnson wrote, “He could be blunt and sarcastic – not for nothing was he known as Barbed Wire – but I found him amusing and inspiring too.”
Dwyer was an excellent team-builder and Johnson quotes in his book the words used by Dwyer on an occasion to motivate the Leicester team. “Imagine if each one can dive on one loose ball in the match. That’s fifteen loose balls a match. Dive on it – dive on that loose ball! Think of it like a hand grenade you’ve got to dive on to save your family. It’s that important.”
Incidentally Martin Johnson had been kind enough to send Wesley College a large amount of DVDs, autographed photographs, posters, rugger balls and other souvenirs that could be used for fund-raising at their rugby celebrations.
Speaking at the banquet, to the amusement of the 400-odd who attended, Dwyer divulged the secret of being a successful coach. He said “Get good players and you will be a good coach. Get very good players and you will be a very good coach.” Dwyer was not joking. He explained: “If a coach carefully observes excellent players to study their style and the innovations they bring into the game, he could learn from these players.”
He recalled many lessons he had learnt by watching the great players who trained with dedication and zeal till they were absolutely proficient in their craft. He spoke of their diligence and wanting to be ‘the first guys on the pitch and the last guys off it.’ He spoke of the need to be inventive and bold to go against the norm in exceptional circumstances and ‘let yourself go where your feet go.’ But as to the quality that he considered vital, Dwyer stressed, “You need to have the courage and self confidence to risk failure in order to achieve success.”
Dilip Kumar, who had the distinction of holding the post of Chairman of the Australian Rugby Union, was the guest of honour at the occasion. In a short address Kumar, an old Trinitian, spoke of the link he had with Wesley through Cedric Oorloff (former Wesley principal) who went over to Trinity. Oorloff was one of the strictest disciplinarians of that era and Kumar recalled a painful experience where he received ‘six-of-the-best’ from Oorloff.
Kumar spoke of the efforts Dwyer and he were taking to introduce the ‘80-80’ concept to rugby where the players of both teams should be less than 80 kilos in weight. This he said would provide a more level playing field for Asian countries like Sri Lanka.
Kumar also paid tribute to Wesley for the great progress they made at rugby in the past decade, and assured the school of his support in the future.
Priyantha Ekanayake, President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union, and Dilroy Fernando the CEO of the SLRFU also graced the occasion.
Tokens of appreciation were awarded to the past rugby captains of Wesley, N J Mudannayake who was master in charge of rugby for 22 years, and Dishantha Priyadarshana the coach.