Violence in schools rugby should be nipped in the bud

The rugby scene moved on with the Western Province Schools stepping onto the field at Bambalapitiya. Like in Club rugby where one team rides way ahead of the rest the schools tournament too was in the same mould. While St Peter’s and Royal did not participate the other big guns in the Western Province were there. Isipthana who won the cup stamped their authority with a runaway win over S Thomas’ College in the final after having little resistance from the others they played against. Unfortunately or was it fortunately for the losers the referee called off the game four minutes before full time due to bad light .

As much as I said that the club tournament would have been better if the teams were in groups of equals I believe the same should be done in the schools too. With twenty four teams in the fray the lesser known teams getting a beating at the hands of the traditional rugby playing schools does not do very much for the development of the sport. Another issue that I am at a loss to understand was the need to play pre quarter finals thus prolonging the agony of the also ran while not giving the spectator very much of rugby. This also resulted in the schools getting into the final having to play four matches on the second day. This was too taxing as the games were played on a rock hard surface that was brown as it may not have seen water for a number days or possibly weeks. The temperature was almost 36 degrees C on day one with divine providence giving a little respite to the young athlete on the second day from a slight rain.

I cannot understand the rationale of playing more games as against not having quality rugby and competitive games. Were they following the SLRFU tournament format? I see probably this is so as I saw almost the same faces on the tournament desk. If rugby is to improve what is required is competitive games and not a number of games. The schools need to be guided in this by the parent body. That will be development. It is another story when we talk of development.

The ugly head of violence raised its head with spectators running into the field and assaulting players after a semi final game between Lumbini Vidyalaya and Zahira College. It happened after the final whistle and the referee was virtually off the field. It was a helmet that was used to pummel a helpless boy on the head who had to be carried to hospital for emergency treatment. Two Lumbini Vidyalaya boys were the victims of shameless bravado displayed in the form of hooliganism. According to the Principal of the school the boys were discharged from Hospital on Thursday. The injuries to one boy have been more severe and the boy is still going through the traumatic experience.

Were the schoolboys involved in any way and what action is being taken by the schools concerned as well as the Western Province Schools rugby Football association is what is now to be seen? It is absolutely necessary that a strong course of action be taken as this is just the beginning of the season. Discipline is a must in the game and should not follow the ‘warn and discharge’ method as happened on the SLRFU rugby sevens. The case in question was a player received two yellow cards in the same tournament and then should have received a penalty where he could not take any further part in the tournament. However he was given a warning and was once again sent off with a yellow card in the first game he played after the warning. Probably he would have thought that I play for X club and Y too plays for the same team and since Y is there the disciplinary committee will always chicken out. This definitely is not the way to go or else 2009 will lead to be a year of fisticuffs on the field and will add to the misery of rugby.

Organizers should take care when selecting to host a tournament as there is a need to have some protective fence around the playing area. With not even a rope around the games that were closely contested had to be stopped many tines as spectators were encroaching the field of play.

On the side lines the big boys of the IRB met the thought of big boys of local rugby. Reports are that there is little enthusiasm of the International Governing body to give funds through a non elected body. I also understand that there was no coherence in the expectations of various bodied that met and presented to the governing body. More or less it was a case of each group wanting to live in its own Island. Even within groups some were more interested in the nuts and bolts than the larger picture they should have been seeing.

With no sign of a sponsor on the horizon and The IRB grant being uncertain what have you got to spend for the game. Is it what the previous council did or did not leave?

= Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB
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