CH & FC goes on its own to bolster rugby image

Text and Pictures by Rangi Akbar

Even four defeats in-a-row as on July 1 has not dampened the spirits of the CH&FC this season. “There were several refereeing errors against Kandy and CR. Nevertheless we are going ahead with the idea of producing a champion team in three years time,” said Shane Dullewe, Chairman of the Gymkhana Club and Secretary of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union in an interview with the Sunday Times.

CH’s Fijii players Mano Qoro and Iliese Salu Salu pose for this picture with skipper Lakala Perera and Coach Nishantha Chanaka.

The CH grounds bristled with activity. A mercantile hockey match was being played at the far end of the ground. The Zahira College rugby players had gathered to have a friendly bash with the CH players. Prominent amongst Maitland Crescent Club were two Fijji players Mano Qoro and Iliese Salu Salu. The side is captained by Lakala Perera of St. Peter’s fame.

The Nelson Mendis School of Cricket at CCC had just finished their practices. Cricketers from schools in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates were hard at practices in preparation for their games in Colombo before they take wing to Malaysia to play some games there as well. Cricketers who ha attended the Indoor Nets were busy putting the final touches to their fielding.

Squash players were barging in and out of the squash courts and swimmers were continuing their activity at the roof-top swimming pool. Musclemen toned their muscles at the gymnasium. Outside the CH grounds the HSBC office bustled with activity and the newly opened DSI Sports Store was doing brisk business.

“We have no sponsor. We are going on our own to sponsor our activities and the response is good,” said Shane Dullewe.

Taking me around the club premises Shane pointed out that the Colombo Cricket Club was formed at the present location, No 31 Maitland Crescent in 1863 and in 1892 the CH&FC was formed at the Race Course and was shifted to Maitland Crescent in 1961 after the Race Course grounds was taken over by the Army. “The Queens Club was formed at the Thunmulla Junction in 1899 which included the squash and tennis courts. In 1892 it was rugby, hockey and football, that is how the club came to be known as Ceylon Hockey and Football Club. In 1975 we stopped playing football and all three playing sections joined together and formed the Gymkhana Club. The first chairman was R.C. Rowen, an Englishman.

Until 1964 no Sri Lankan were allowed as members of the Gymkhana Club. It was only in 1965 that the doors were opened to Sri Lankans to join the CH. Before that members and playing members were all Britishers,” explained Shane. Continuing Shane said, “The first Sri Lankan to be Chairman of the Gymkhana Club was R.C. Fernando and the first Sri Lankan rugby captain of the CH was Royal’s Bryan Baptist (1971) and the first Sri Lankan hockey captain of the CH was Major Gajendran in 1970.”

Shane Dullewe is now President of the Gymkhana Club, better known as the CH&FC and a major task lies ahead of him, which is to lift the CH out of its rugby doldrums.

The man in charge of CH’s fitness, Karunaratne

CH has acquired a fine fitness man in Karunaratne, the former Army and Sri Lanka winger as its Trainer. He leaves no stone unturned in his efforts to get the lads in top shape starting with the well equipped gymnasium.

They have a talented lot in Avantha Hettiarachchi, Tuan Shamrock, Nilusha Fernando, Niroshan Ekanayake, Parakrama Ratnayake, Bimal Herath and Indika Udayakumara who will be the deputy skipper. Adding zip to their play will be the outstanding St. Peter’s player Arfath Meedin and Indika Wickrmaratne of Dharmaraja fame. The coach is Nishantha Chanaka and the Manager of the team is Anver Jayah. Tony Amith, the former CH skipper, Sri Lanka and Zahira coach is also at hand to give expert advice.

Anver Jayah said that the club had video taped some incidents from their earlier matches blatantly showing that there were major refereeing errors. “Something has to be done about the referees’ situation. No schoolboys are joining the Referees Society because there is no future there. If the referees’ situation continues and some clubs and schools opt for foreign referees what is going to be the situation of Lankan rugby,” queried Jayah.

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