If only they had something to lean on

By Ravi Nagahawatte
Sri Lanka’s rugby traditions have taken such a severe beating during the past few years that the wounds which occurred as a result are still festering. SLRFU officials have forgotten that rugby or for that matter anything on earth, with a significant history, will benefit when tradition is safeguarded. How? Because tradition is possibly the only thing that offers you something to lean on, during turbulent times.

This topic about rugby traditions being brushed aside came up for discussion just after the 2006 Annual General Meeting of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU). The next rugby union AGM will be held in February this year and it’s time to ponder why a rugby tradition that stood over 100 years just folded like nine pins in 2006.

One of Sri Lanka’s best products in sevens and 15-a-side rugby Michael Jayasekara was denied the opportunity of chairing the SLRFU executive committee because there were enough people who thought it was ok to promote someone more ‘suitable’. Without debating on whether or not this decision was ethical, we’ll focus on the consequences of such actions.

That method of joining the SLRFU as a committee member and working oneself up the rungs of the ladder of hierarchy is old stuff. It only needs a few bold people who’ll promote this new thinking and you’ll soon see this way of parachuting to the top rungs of rugby’s administrative ladder, being established pretty fast.

Jayasekara wasn’t given a chance to prove his administrative capabilities. Rugby teaches us to support our skipper whatever the differences are, irrespective of whether he is a fine captain or not. History has proved on numerous occasions how mediocre captains have ended up as better captains. It’s important to stress here that the majority of clubs believed they couldn’t work with Jayasekara and hence backed a person of their liking all the way to the rugby union. Rugby teaches us how to work around problems and not look at them as obstacles. But sadly the people who brought the outgoing SLRFU president to power didn’t see a way of working around problems if Jayasekara had been elected SLRFU President.

We have seen enough mediocre captains being given the reigns of the team because rugby tradition insists that the most senior player in line for the captaincy gets the nod. And as if to say ‘what goes around comes around’ we saw rugby’s traditions getting its second hammering when two captains were appointed for the Asian Five Nations tournament which Sri Lanka took part in.
Players were seen disregarding rugby tradition. They openly voiced their disapproval over the appointed captain of the national rugby team. As a result, two captains were appointed to the dismay of the Sri Lankan rugby fraternity and the existing captain. This move by the selectors to have two captains during one tour makes people mock at the depths to which a vital sports body like the national selection committee has sunk.

This could be a sure sign of worse things to come. Rugby is now moving away from Colombo and establishing bigger roots in the suburbs and far away provinces. Very soon we might see rugby administration being handled by individuals who reside in villages. We must be happy for the less affluent making it big in rugby. But their progress must happen in a manner which others who play rugby elsewhere, including Colombo, are given the assurance that they are not left out of the rugby equation.

Rugby is a beautiful sport where we see players of one team, regardless of race and attitude problems they have, share a common goal, when on the field. Since of late this unity amongst players has been threatened too.

In this multi-ethnic society of ours we have begun to see players getting involved in sports politics. Players must be reminded that sports politics, though it exists, must be something that they should refrain from indulging in till they finish their playing careers. This was the thinking that was promoted amongst the players of the bygone era and should remain the same.

This breakdown in discipline, and tradition, in rugby, could be the link to players not giving a damn about ethics. Rugby players must take a cue from the national cricketers sticking together as one family at a time when the sport’s administration is in a mess. It’s essential that players play their roles to help preserve tradition in the sport of rugby union.

Each rugby club has its respective culture and traditions which differ from other clubs. History provides us with enough examples of how players have found solace in other clubs when the culture in one club doesn’t suit them. If all club officials think the same and promote one culture, players encountering problems wouldn’t have a way out. A rainbow wouldn’t be a breathtaking sight if even one colour is taken out. Like wise, it’s these differences in people which make a society all the more interesting.

Embrace change by all means if that guarantees success. But it shouldn’t be done at the expense of the sport’s development. We don’t want to see a rugby club with a 100-year-old history being bought over by a ‘mudalali’ who’ll make it defunct when he can’t be bothered running the place anymore. Take a moment and ponder whether we have unknowingly made our contributions towards ushering in such an era?

Look at the present state in which rugby is in with the appointing of an interim committee. The manner in which room was left for the sports minister to appoint an interim committee must be frowned upon. Those who backed the last executive committee of the SLRFU probably didn’t know that elected council members were duty bound to administer rugby till their terms ended, however big the problems they (officials) encountered were.

Practicing old rugby traditions certainly don’t make sports administration a hassle-free job. If elected in keeping with traditions of the SLRFU, the problems faced by its president would be little ones because it’s the system which brings him to power and not individuals. The old system allowed some rugby union presidents to hang in there during a time of crisis, however useless or controversial figures they may have been. This is because the people who worked under the SLRFU President, then, valued tradition and exercised patience till his term ended. Even thinking of an interim committee was taboo.

The rugby fraternity sees the sport nearing breakdown point with the advent of an interim committee. These interim committees should never be encouraged and the reigns of rugby should quickly go back to the hands of an individual who’s elected President at an AGM in keeping with the SLRFU constitution. When encountering trouble, sports in general tend to lean on the Sports Minister for survival. Rugby doesn’t have to do that. The traditions of rugby, when practised, have provided those who govern it something to lean on when everything else around them seems to collapse.


Top schoolboy rugby stars to play for Air Force

By M Naushad Amit
Air Force Sports Club has recruited eight school players to represent the club in the 2009 rugby season. Among them are Thushara Ratnayake, Mohamed Riyazi, Migara Madugalla, Gayan Kumara, Harsha Ranaweera, Nuwan Darshana, Dimitri Wijetunga and Chanaka Gunaratne. Ratnayake, the 2005 rugby captain of Vidyartha, Kandy will play in the No.8 position while Riyazi, who played as a prop forward for Trinity last year, will make his club debut with the Airmen. Three Isipathanians, Madugalla, the former Isipathana and Sri Lanka Youth flanker, former scrum half Gayan Kumara and prop forward Wijetunga are set to make a big impact in the front division for Air Force.

Two Kingswood players, Ranaweera and Nuwan will also make their club rugby debut with the Air Force rugby team. One of the greatest additions Air Force has made this year will be the inclusion of centre Chanaka Gunaratne. Gunaratne who lead St. Anthony’s, Kandy last year also represented the national youth side in the Youth Asiad held in South Korea. According to Air Force team manager Dhammika Maddegedara the squad has already started their practice sessions at their Ratmalana Airbase.

“We have recruited some of the finest players who represented their schools last year. Most of these players we recruited are the ones who are talented and yet found it hard to continue their rugby at a leading club. Air Force SC will look after them very well and our aim from this season is to produce national players,” Maddegedara stated.

He also spoke of the cooperation and interest of the officials to uplift the game of rugby at Air Force. “At a time when the Air Force is directly engaged in the decisive war, it’s encouraging to see our top officials rendering their fullest support to sports. Rugby is a keenly followed sport in the Air Force and we must thank our commander for his encouragement. Our rugby secretary, wing commander Sanjaya Fernando, who is a former Isipathana and Air Force rugby captain is a great strength to our team,” Maddegedara added.

Further, according to the team manager, Kosala Ranasinghe will captain the Airmen this season. Ranasinghe was a former Royal rugby captain, CH & FC and Sri Lanka Sevens player. Bimal Perera will coach Air Force this year while Mohotilal Jayathilake has been recruited as the physical instructor. Maddegedara added that few key players from leading clubs in the country have shown their interest in crossing over to Air Force. “We have spoken to a few key players and they are keen to play for Air Force this year,” he said. With the new set of players, Air Force will be a formidable side unlike in the past years.


A fillip to 80th Battle of the Maroons

Two leading Buddhist schools in the country Ananda and Nalanda, will join hands together for the first time to organise their annual cricket encounter which is famous as ‘The Battle of the Maroons’. The annual ‘big match’ will be celebrated in a big way as it’s the 80th anniversary this year and will be given a facelift with the fresh arrangements that the new joint organising committee hopes to add to the match from this year.

“This will be the first instance in the 79-year-old history of this annual encounter that both schools are getting together in organising the event. This year will be another milestone of ‘The Battle of the Maroons’ as the encounter will reach its 80th year. So far both schools have maintained a healthy relationship of brotherhood and unity. We hope to be an example to other institutes that are holding annual ‘big matches’ as ours,” said Hemantha Premathillake, the Principal of Nalanda College at a press briefing held last Wednesday at the Bloomfield C & AC in Reid Avenue.

In the past Ananda and Nalanda have played a key role in taking cricket to the rural areas particularly at a time when cricket was limited to schools in the main cities of the island according to Lal Dissanayake, the Principal of Ananda College.

“The Battle of the Maroons is the first cricket encounter to have commentaries relayed in the Sinhala language in 1960. This was done by an old Nalandian, Karunaratne Abeysekara. Initially people started to laugh at it. But today cricket has become a household affair thanks to the efforts taken by Abeysekara. He was later followed by Palitha Perera, Premasara Epasinghe, Kamal Deshapriya, Nalin Aponso, Hemajith Fernando, Bandula Saman Waturegama, Anura Silva and many others. Most of them are old boys of Ananda or Nalanda. We take pride in that,” Dissanayake added.

During the recent years, participation at the ‘big match’ of both present and past students from both schools has rapidly moved down. The need of a joint organising committee arose in order to encourage more spectators to attend. The joint committee expects to embark on a vigorous campaign encouraging the present students, parents, old boys and their families to be a part of the annual ‘big match’. The campaign will be mainly focused on propaganda and entertainment during the match amongst a number of other aspects.

The joint organising committee co-chaired by Upali Dharmadasa and Ravi Ahangama desires to lift the game at the 80th annual encounter to reflect the unmatched talent and potential of Anandians and Nalandians on and off the field of cricket. The committee has organised food courts, musical entertainment and much more in tandem with the ‘big match’ fever. With the new additions, different tents for designated age groups will be included to cater to their needs. The 80th ‘Battle of the Maroons’ cricket encounter will be played on March 7 and 8 followed by the One-day encounter on March 15 at the SSC. – [MNA]


2009 Rugby season begins for SPC juniors

The 2009 rugby season for juniors at St. Peter’s College commenced last Monday (January 26). The opening training session was conducted under the guidance of their junior rugby coach Senaka Balasuriya and over 120 juniors participated in the under 10, 12 and 14 age categories. Last year St. Peter’s excelled in junior rugby. The U-12 team won the Western Province Tournament quite convincingly.Sanath Martis the Sri Lanka U-19 and head coach of St. Peter’s giving a word of encouragement to a group of young ruggerites (MNA)


Coca Cola official beverage sponsors for Indian tour

Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka (CCBSL) tied up as the official beverage sponsor for the on-going Indian tour to Sri Lanka which commenced on January 28. The brand is geared to provide refreshment for both teams throughout the series which consists of five One-day International matches and one T20 match.
Pictured from left: Lakith Peiris, Promotions & PR coordinator Sri Lanka Cricket, Charith Senanayake, Marketing Manager, Sri Lanka Cricket, Duleep Mendis, CEO Sri Lanka Cricket, Dusty Alahakoon, Country Marketing Manager, Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd, Ranjith Edirisinghe, Special Events Manager, Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd


Hilton cricket social

Hilton Colombo held their Sports & Fitness Club Members cricket social recently. The event was sponsored by Abdeen Group of Companies. Picture shows the captain of the champion team Nazeem Ghafoor receiving the challenge trophy from Isadeen Abdeen, director Abdeen group of companies. General Manager Hilton Colombo Jerome Auvity is also present


Inter-club carrom

The Inter-club Knockout Carrom Tournament was held on January 10, 11 and 17 at the Carrom Federation of Sri Lanka (CFSL) headquarters with over 300 players participating in three divisions for men and women.


Men’s Tournament
Division ‘A’ Winners: Seylan Bank SC – Team: Chamil Cooray, Germain Gunawardena, Channa Gunasekara, Susantha Fernando.
Runners-up: Pharmaceuticals SC.
Division ‘B’ Winners: Ceylinco SC – Team: Sunil de Alwis, DMPS Dissanayake, PDS Lalmal, MK Kumara, DJP Wanigasuriya.
Runners-up: Madapatha SC.
Division ‘C’ Winners: YMCA Kandy – Team: IT Dahanayake, DC Samarasekara, SA Senadgi, ANM Ameer, KGSJ Prasad.
Runners–up: Mt. Lavinia Hotel SC.
Women’s Tournament
Division ‘A’ Winners: Rangers SC – Team: Yashika Rahudaddha, Udeshika Kumari.
Runners-up: Anula Vidyalaya SC.
Division ‘B’ Winners: Anula Vidyalaya SC – Team: Suvini Jayasinghe, M Kanchanamala. Nadini C Madhubani.
Runners-up: Rangers SC
Division ‘C’: Winners: R & A SC ‘B’ – Team: M Dilshani Ranaweera, AGSS Bandara, G Rebecca Dalrene.
Runners-up: R & A SC “A”.
The Carrom Federation of Sri Lanka (CFSL) will be conducting the Junior National Carrom Championships soon after the Senior Nationals is over and entry forms are available from CFSL, Reid Avenue, Colombo 7. Entries for the Junior Nationals close on February 20 and the tournament commences on March 7.