Sporting skills of new Navy Commander

By Bernie Wijesekera
Thisara in his younger days with his trophies

That the captain of the ship ‘Sri Lanka Navy’ today is a sportsman, sports administrator and sport enthusiast augurs well for ‘the men and women in blue’.

Vice Admiral Thisara Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka Navy’s new Commander is a proud product of Royal College, Colombo the school whose pupils live by the motto “Disce aut Disce de” and whose credo in life’s journey is honed by the refrain of the school’s anthem “We will learn of books and men and learn to play the game”.

Reminiscing on his past, says his best achievement in U-14 cricket was when Royal bundled out St. Peter’s for 5 runs and he took 4 wickets for 2 runs, Asoka Perera 6 wickets for 3 runs! He played U-16, 2nd XI and also 1st XI cricket in the company of Asitha Jayaweera, Ajith Pasqual and Samuel Lawton, and was honest to say that he failed to play in the Battle of the Blues.
Thisara captained the ‘A’ team in 1973. He well remembers his coaches – Gamini Salgado, H.T. Gunasekera, Col. F.C. De Saram and Vijaya Malalasekera.

He won Royal College Colours in Athletics as a sprinter. His Athletics captain was the late Wing Commander D.S. Wickremasinghe, who made the supreme sacrifice for his country during the war. Thisara was coached by legendary Summa Navaratnam and Wing Commander Raja Wickremasinghe. Thisara also played Hockey for the Royal ‘A’ team. In 1970, at Cadetting, he had the distinction of being Lance Corporal in Royal Platoon 1 who won the prestigious Herman Loos Trophy. He achieved the position of Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) in 1973 and won the Best Commander’s Prize in 1972 receiving the award from Hon. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. Finally Thisara was selected as a Senior Prefect of Royal College.

On leaving school, he joined Lever Brothers as a Trainee Executive. Three months later he left the Company and joined the Sri Lanka Navy as an officer Cadet and thus began a voyage that brought to the pinnacle.

While in the Navy he played cricket until 1989 at various levels. He represented Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth at cricket in 1976 winning his colours and represented the Sri Lanka Navy in the Donovan Andree trophy, the Defense Services and also the Robert Senanayake Trophy, Captaining the Daily News Trophy cricket team. Then as a Sports administrator Thisara served as Chairman of Sri Lanka Navy Cricket, Rugby and Athletics.

He assisted Mr. Gamini Salgado in coaching from 1985 to 1987, was President of the National Rifle Association in 2006 and served in the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union and the Board of Control for Cricket as the Defense Services representative.

The captain of the ship ‘Sri Lanka Navy’ Thisara Samarasingha a man with many talents

A most rewarding period in his career was during 1987/1989, when he was Chairman of Navy Rugby. With yet another old Royalist Bryan Baptist as rugby coach for these 3 years, the sailors stormed their way to two K.O. Finals of the Clifford Cup ‘A’ and ‘B’ Division tournaments, both games being played on the same day and at the same venue. It was no mean effort with a set of ‘greenhorns’. They lost both finals by the slimmest of margins but opened the eyes of the elite rugby world dominated by a handful of schools. That year the Navy “Dreadnaughts’ also won the rugby ‘B’ Division league title, while the ‘A’ team beat League Champs – the Police in the Clifford Cup semi-final on the toss of a coin as the scores were 6 all at full time. The late Commander Parakrama Samaraweera (Killed in action in the Mullaitivu seas) was the Captain of this side.

Today Thisara is the proud Commander of the Sri Lanka Navy, overjoyed that the Navy rugby team is making a great impact in the rugby scene in Sri Lanka, having beaten the best Colombo team – the CR & FC by 18 points to 3 and then rocked the Champion side in the country the following week, Kandy Sports Club by 12 point to 11 in a thriller which is an incredible achievement. Although he did not wish to single out individual players since all played as a dedicated team, he mentioned Coach Ronnie Ibrahim who has done a tremendous job in moulding the Navy side in less than a year to be one of the best in Sri Lanka and also the young Navy Skipper Yoshitha Rajapaksa, who has displayed fine leadership qualities and also led from the front example. His words of advice – “Keep going – Don’t relax – continue playing Clean and hard rugby for all to enjoy”.

His parents taught him to face setbacks in life but fight back and instill on human values. Today he is someone in life – thanks to his parents and also owes his success to his teachers, Coaches and Officers of the Navy, and ‘plays with a straight bat’. He has never lost his balance knowing very well that everything in life is temporarily adhering to the Buddhist principles. He says, “Maintain your honesty and dignity and serve in whatever capacity for the right reasons.”

Thisara Samarasinghe, is an ‘Officer and a Gentleman’ and we wish him well for a successful future

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