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14th May 2000
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Kulshari Weerasuriya of St.PAul's Milagiriya 
doing the 'Balancing Act' at the gymnastic 
show during the schools sports meet.

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Royal tennis players in action

Upendra WalgampayaA. GodamanneParamanthanSabanathan

Royal College tennis players made a clean sweep at the Inter-School tennis championships by winning all six titles on offer. Our cameraman Ranjith Perera went to freeze the action of some of the Royal stars.

Amith eyes Golf Medal

Amith De Soyza (14)The Golf Monthly Medal tournament sponsored for the fifth consecutive year by Connaissance De Ceylan group of companies will be held on the May 27 at the Royal Colombo Golf Club.

This was stated by Harischandra Serasinghe, Captain of the Royal Colombo Golf Club when he briefed the media at the (RCGC) last week.

He said the RCGC is grateful to the sponsors Connaissance De Seylan for having been associated with the Royal Colombo Golf Club and looking after the success of the Golf Monthly medal tournament during the last five years.

'The Golf Monthly medal tourney has during the course of the past few years produced both quality golf and entertainment for avid golf fans, I only hope that our sponsors will get good mileage by being associated with this years tournament as well," said Serasinghe.

According to the Captain of the RCGC The Golf Monthly Medal Tournament is to be conducted over 18 holes with around 90 of the best golfers in the country expected to vie for top honours.

It is also to be played in line with the accredited handicaps in categories A,B,C. 

Masters over 55, and Seniors over 65 events, respectively will be worked off in this golf tournament which will see teenage golf sensation Amith De Soyza (14), vying for laurels alongside with the well known golfers. Suranimala Senarathne MD of the Connaissance De Seylan speaking at the media conference said that his hotel firm was committed to sponsoring the Golf Monthly Medal for the past four years and expressed his wish that this year's competition will be no exception to the previous four that they have sponsored.

'Besides sponsoring tours for both domestic and foreign tourists we have been sponsoring golf tournaments of this nature as well as giving much needed financial backing and sponsorships to cricket and rugby tours.

We have been promoting Eco-Tourism of late, and through the success of the Golf Monthly medal tournament we have been able to promote the chain of hotels which combines our hotel group and tour packages as well' said Senarathne.- JK

Sri Lanka for Youth Tennis 

Sri Lanka's Youth Tennis TeamSri Lanka will participate at the Regional Qualifying NEC World Youth Cup 2000 which will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia from 9th to 14th May. In order to qualify for the finals, Sri Lanka will have to secure a place within the the first three nations in this Asia/Oceania qualifying zone, said Suresh Subramaniam, Vice President, SLTA. 

The selection of the teams for the finals will be made through regional qualifying events to be organised from April-August, according to the following allocation for boys' and girls' events.

Africa 1; Asia/Oceania 3; Europe 6; North/Central America and Caribbean 2; South America 3; Japan (Host Nation) 1; Total 16. 

The finals will be played in Hiroshima, Japan in October 2000.

Sri Lanka will be sending three under 16 girls and three under 16 boys and a non - playing captain for each team. George Paldano ITF Level 11 qualified coach will be the non-playing captain of the boys' under 16 team. The boys' under 16 side which will comprise of Dinuka Ranaweera, Harshana Godamanna and U. Walgamapaya.

Sanjaya Walgampaya will be the non-playing captain of the girls' under 16 team which will comprise Mahesha Seneviratne, Dushinka Subramaniam and Swini Fernando. Mrs U. Ratwatte has been appointed manageress of the contingent. 

"We have shown our interest to the International Tennis Federation in hosting the next Asia/Oceania Regional Qualifying event in Sri Lanka," said Suresh Subramaniam. "What our youngsters need is exposure to top quality tennis and hosting such an event is ideal for this purpose," he said.

Lanka sure of Plate - Bena 

By Jatila Karawita
The President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union Anton Benedict says that criticism levelled at the SLRFU and the rugby players of late is both destructive and personal.

He called on the critics and the lovers of the game here to be constructive in their criticism and welcomed any ideas from all and sundry to further improve the sport in the country, but assured that he will not allow any person, whatever his standing or status, to interfere with the administration of rugby football in Sri Lanka.

Benedict made these comments in an exclusive interview the Sunday Times had with the rugby boss at his Union Headquarters last week.

Anton Benedict who gave his views on a wide range of issues connected to the sport during the interview conveyed his loyalty to the Sports Minister S.B. Dissanayake for making arrangements to hand over a permanent building for the SLRFU and he also expressed his immense confidence in national coach SSP Nimal Lewke, Chairman of Selectors Tikiri Marambe and the SLRFU office bearers and Council Members including Vice President Harsha Mayadunne. The SLRFU President predicts that Sri Lanka will win the Plate Championship final in the up coming Rugby Asiad in Japan.

Excerpts of the Interview.

Q. How do you look at the standards of rugby in Sri Lanka among the clubs in general ?

A. It is far too early to comment as the Inter-Club league season for the year 2000 has just begun.

But I must say from the few matches that I have seen between service teams such as Police SC, Army SC, and Navy SC it is encouraging to note that they have begun to make a tremendous impact on some of those more fancied Colombo clubs as CH, CR, and Havies.

For example the games between Police and Kandy SC last week, and the one between Army and Navy the previous week,were two very close matches that we have seen so far for this season.

Also the fact that Navy lost to Army by one point proves in many ways that last season's bottom placed teams have shown vast improvements this time around and I won't be surprised at all to see some of these services if they were to down even teams like Kandy in the weeks to come.

I must also congratulate each of the four services Police,Army, Navy,and Air Force for continuing to scrum down in the ongoing league season despite the current traumatic war situation in the country.

Q.How do you look at the standards of schools rugby ?

A. Even the schools rugby season has just started.

The decision taken by the previous administration of the Sri Lanka Schools Rugby Football Association of giving every school side the option of taking on any school of their choice is very absurd to say the least.

I must say not a single official of the previous administration of the Schools Association did not consult a single official of the SLRFU for any guidance and that I feel had led to all these unnecessary problems in the schools body.

The recent decision taken by Isipatana to pull out of the Milo Trophy league format is pretty sad because I know for sure that a school like 'Patana' wouldn't have pulled out if not for a valid reason.

I recently had a meeting with the Principal of Isipatana Mr. Gunasekera, and he has assured me that the newly formed administration will be putting forward a new format for the schools from 2001 which will take rugby to a new level among schools from next season.

Q.What would you say is the reason, for Sri Lanka's poor showing in recent Sevens tournaments?

A. I must say at the very outset as the President of the SLRFU,that I am indeed concerned about the dismal performance by the Sri Lanka Sevens squad of late.

But by the same token I must say that the boys lost not for want of trying.

It so happened that we were brushed aside by the more professional sevens teams like Japan, Fiji and the rest.

I feel at the moment the key players get injured to replace them with adequate players the strength of our player base is not strong enough presently.

And the other fact is that we don't have lads who are really strong and quick enough to play international sevens rugby currently.

Take for example players like Eric Rush of All Blacks and Waisale Serevi of Fiji.

involved in sevens from a very young age onwards and now they are fully fledged true professional sevens stars.

Their virtual livelihood is sevens rugby.

But is it the case with Sri Lanka? 

I must say categorically here the SLRFU is in no way discouraged by the criticism of the national team or any of the officials for that matter. No matter what the critics might say the SLRFU have decided to send the national team for all future international sevens tournaments irrespective of the final outcome.

Q.How do you look at Sri Lanka's chances in the upcoming Asiad?

A.We will be going step by step in this tourney.

But our main goal I'd say is to win the Plate Championship.

We have been practicing for the Asiad from last season onwards. And the progress we have made has been quite satisfactory in my view though there has been the odd hiccup here and there.

I must also state that I have enormous confidence in SSP Nimal Lewke as national coach.

I must also say that we have mooted a proposal for the Asian Rugby Football Union to allow the bottom placed team of Group A to play the Plate champions and subsequently the winners to be grouped in the A group at the 2002 rugby Asiad in Bangkok, Thailand.

Q. How do you compare the interest of crowds in rugby from your playing days to the present day rugby arena ?

A. Well it is difficult to compare the period from my playing days to the present times. I guess there is a multitude of reasons for the current decline in crowds at local matches.

If I may put it in a nutshell, there is the T V coverage, Popularity of cricket,standards of rugby, rugby going professional etc, which can be highlighted as many factors that have contributed to the sparse gathering of spectators.

But from what I have observed I think the crowds are starting to flock to the rugby venues once more.

For the Traditional game between CR& Havies there was a big crowd. And for the Police CH match too there was a fair crowd. I feel that spectators who were used to rugby played by ones like Tony Sirimanne, Glen Vanlanganberg,Ashey Cader,Kavan Rambukwella,Maiya Gunasekera,Haji Omar,etc, in the years gone by,may not have liked the style of rugger that is presently turned out by the current crop of players.

Also the very fact that rugby has gone pro,internationally has given the opportunity for rugby fans to witness top quality international rugby matches thanks to the television from the comfort of their living rooms.

And the price of tickets too may have led to the dwindling of crowds at present.

Q.The absence of foreign players in club rugby.Your views on the subject ?

A. My answer to this question is both yes and no.

My opinion is it is useful to play foreign players if only they are allowed to play in foreign tournaments.

And by the same yardstick I would say the absence of foreign players from the league for the past couple of years has allowed our boys to further improve their skills and training.

Our players have learned the art of tackling and they have improved their defensive play due to the impression created on them by players like Apisai Nagatha, Kiti Ratudradra, Bati Panaia, and Manasa Quoro etc. Having foreign players was also a drain on the coffers,I must say on most of the clubs who had them.

Q. Your views about Coach Nimal Lewke's suggestion to hire a foreign trainer to assist the national coach ?

A. I must say I am prepared to support Nimal to the very hilt in whatever capacity that he needs the Union backing. At the moment discussions are going on with him on gaining the assistance of a foreign trainer.

Therefore it is a bit too early to predict who that person might be. I must also say we are having discussions with officials of CR to hire the services of their foreign coach Laga who in fact helped Nimal the last time around.

But I have to say that past experiences have shown that foreign coaches who have come forward to coach the national team have enjoyed only modest success at international level. A case in example to which I do not like to go into detail is the period where we failed dismally under the tutelage of former All Blacks coach Jeff Matheson.

Q.What future plans has the SLRFU in mind to further upgrade rugby in Sri Lanka ?

A. The Sports minister S. B. Dissanayake assured me that all financial backing and assistance will be given to us by the sports ministry to have a permanent headquarters of our own.

Next to the Ministers office adjoining the Race Course and the Reid Avenue entrance he has given us 27 perches. The old building which will be refurbished at a cost of Rs 4.5 million rupees is to be our new headquarters. It is to be completed in three stages and the agreement to this effect is to be signed between the minister and myself in a matter of weeks.

I must also say the minister was very happy with the impact rugby has made in the country and he told me the SLRFU is in itself a role model for other sports associations in the country.

As another step to popularise rugby in the country we have gained exclusive rights to stage the under 19 Rugby Asiad in December in Colombo.

It will be staged from 16 to 23 December with 10 countries in the fray.

I also feel to further develop rugby here, player base should be increased. 

More finances has to be pumped in to the game,and fulltime officials should work for the rugby parent body SLRFU. The rugby structure also has to be changed.

And a dire need is an Executive Director with his supporting staff for the rugby union.

Q.Why was it decided to cancel the two tests against Australian Northern Territories in Australia later this year ?

A.I must say that we have not cancelled the two tests against the Northern Territories.

What we have done is that because we had to give priority to the staging of the Under 19 Rugby Asiad late this year and because of the importance of the Rugby Asiad in Japan,we have shifted the two test series for the 2001 season.

At the moment discussions are still underway with the Australian Northern Territories and I am hopeful that we will be able to resume that very popular test series with Australian Northern Territories next year.


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