ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday May 4, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 49

Maurice the rugby diehard in the central hills

By Aubrey Kuruppu

Maurice Joachim

The 1988/89 period was JVP activity in the Kandy district at its height. Rugby at the now prestigious Kandy Sports Club had all but come to a standstill. The message from Rugby Union sources in Colombo was that Kandy SC will be booted out of the A division tournament if it did not honour its fixtures.

It was crunch-time for the club and a group of players - Maurice Joachim, Anil Jayasinghe, C.S. Ekanayake, Chandima Amadone and Viper Gunaratne (Jnr) – together with that devoted rugby enthusiast and promoter, the late Willie Weerasinghe, with assistance from Hotiz Marikar decided to go from house to house and round up the players.

The travails did not end there. The players left for Colombo at 7 a.m. on the day of the match and travelled in a CTB bus. On reaching Colombo, the KSC players did not enjoy the luxury of resting in a hotel. It was under the shade of some giant trees that the players stretched out their weary limbs and prepared mentally for the battle ahead.

As for practices, the players met up at Nittawela and in less than an hour they had scattered as news of some fresh disaster reached them. In the light off all this, a win over the formidable CR & FC in Kandy and another over the Army in Colombo were greeted with delight.

One of the leaders among the players who defied the dreaded 'chits' was the former Anthonian fly half and centre Maurice Joachim who turned out for the Katugastota school under Priyantha Ekanayake (1984) and Naleef of (1985). He was a member of the Central Province Schools team which was captained, funnily enough, by a Thomian, Jeremy John.

Maurice led the club in 1990 and again in the knockout matches in 1992. He had a taste of captaincy when he led the team in some games in 1988 and 1989 when either Anil Jayasinghe or C.S. Ekanayake was injured. Kandy SC benefited from his running, handling, tackling and kicking skills from 1985 to 1993.

As for international exposure, Maurice played for the Sri Lanka under 24 team led by Imtie Marikar in a match against Hong Kong. 1990 was a seminal year for his rugby, as he was selected to represent the country in a sevens tournament in Sicily. The team included some tremendous players - Imtie Marikar, Priyantha Ekanayake, Palitha Siriwardena, Leroy Fonseka, Sudath Sampath, Graham Raux and Pradeep Lakshantha.

Maurice hails the rugged play and leadership of Priyantha Ekanayake, the all round skills of Hisham Abdeen ("A thinking player") and the dynamic play of CH & FC's Chandrishan Perera, Rohan Abeykoon and Apsi Nagata, he singles out the Police trio of Hemantha Yatawera, Saman Kotalawela and Nizan Jamaldeen as being foremost worthy of their steel.

It was under his captaincy that Kandy SC bagged its first trophy in 1992. Indrajith Bandaranike led the club to its first league triumph in 1994, and a year later it was Saman Kotalawela who led the team when it won its first ever triple.

He reveals that he was toying with the idea of playing for the Police or the Army on leaving school. However Viper Gunaratne Jnr who had seen him in action at Anthonian matches and has been impressed, lured him to Kandy SC. It was a decision he never regretted.
Maurice recalls that in the late 1980's club rugby was far more competitive. Most of the clubs had foreign players, and there was a much more even spread of talent. Nagata (CH) Manasa Qor and Loga (CR) together with Kandy SC players such as Kitti and Bati were calling the shots.

His coaches at St Anthony's Kalu Perera and Ajith Fernando drilled into him the fact that rugby was a team game. He says that some of the other colleges tended to go in for individual play. At Kandy SC, Maurice was coached by Alex Lozams and Nimal Malagamuwa.
Maurice looks back on the 1984 school season with pardonable pride. Ekanayake's team beat Trinity 4-0, the Peterites 6-0 and drew 9 all with the Thomians.

Sharing his thoughts on the vexed question of lifting a player in the lines out, Maurice agrees that it has led to the near extinction of the line out Jumper. But the compensatory factor is that the players feel safer now. Injuries have been reduced and 'under cutting' is now a thing of the past.

Maurice has not altogether severed his links with his former club. He was the team manager in 1994/95 and even now he's quite prepared to be of assistance if the club requires his services.

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