The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

In goes Bandara and out comes another Bandara


Vidyartha was the dark horse of this year’s schools league tournament. But they face an off-the-field battle which eventually could change the entire composure of the league tournament. - Pic by Ranjith Perera

The school rugby season is over and the league winners have virtually been decided. Virtually because Trinity College, the table leaders, now have to wait for the off field battles to be completed. Off field antics are not limited to the few crowd invasions that have occurred in a couple of matches. The issues are of a technical nature remaining from the process of protests which have a bearing in announcing the winners of the A, B and C groups in Division 1.

The school tournament is adorned with off field protests every year when rugby talks so much about the spirit in which the game is played. We have even had schools seeking redress in courts to stay at the top league. One year the number of teams was increased to 12 so that the tournament was played. We have had issues of player’s eligibility being challenged and another case of a court order being obtained to halt the Schools Knockout Tournament in 2010. The recent decisions where order was given including costs opens a window to include loss incurred and is reported separately.

Delaying the finalization of table leaders for groups A B and C in Division 1 are a spate of complaints some of which are official.
Speaking to the Secretary of Schools Rugby he confirmed that they have received complaints. On being asked whether the complaints were made within the stipulated time: he explained that the SLSFA President and the committee was of the view that the nature of complaint being about non eligible players the three day period was not adequate.  As rumors will continue to float they decided to look into the issue and arrive at a decision that will be fair to the schools involved.  The complaints on inquiry appear to be speculative except probably in the case of the C division where there are two different dates of birth in two different years.  The others seem more hopeful as in the field of play where most kicks are expected to hopefully land somewhere.

The speculation is that some players may have not had the necessary O’ level passes or that they changed schools because they did not have the required passes.  I am told that a certain Kandy school has forty two players in the pool and some play in matches while they may not be there for others. In some matches they have not played up to five who have played previously. This particular school has around five Bandara names in the list and leads to fantasizing theories that another Bandara of a previous era took the field as a substitute. Bandara in the hills is as common as Perera, Fernando or Silva in the city of Colombo.

In the case of \ a 1 ‘B’ Colombo School the occurrence is that an experienced player who has been on the bench due to an injury comes in for a crucial match. This leads to the presumption of being overage or non eligible on the O level criteria. If you trace back to the origins of creating a doubt the sources are parents who may have a child who has not found a place or has been removed from school.   Very often it is a team that has been relegated because they did not play well and possibly a master who may have an axe to grind. The best in the form of a spin is from a schoolboy who had lost his place and attributed same to importing a non eligible and in the hills.
Why does this happen and what hope have we got as the issues of switch is more prevalent in the lower divisions especially when they travel out of home. The future will possibly require a cage in the playing enclosure to ensure that those who come for the list check are securely kept. That possibly will be the technical zone that will prevent coaches walking around and creating chaos. Talking of technical zones in school matches one finds that this is not policed adequately and often leads to confrontation with the substitution official who is responsible for managing the zone. Various excuses are made including an additional who runs into the field claiming to be the team doctor despite being over the numbers stipulated. The ingenious one I saw was the numbers being correct on the bench the coach stands under the post.

Overseas, Wales came very close to making history by beating Australia. Wales lost 19 to 22 in the second test and the third test by 19 to 20. Australia won the 2nd test  through a Mike Harris Penalty after the siren was sounded while in the last match Wales who lost by one point conceded 14 out of a total of 23 penalties.  Scott Quinnell former Welsh number 8 blasted Wales’ “atrocious discipline” as they let Australia off the hook during the 20-19 third Test defeat. The Wales great was fuming at the penalty count as another opportunity to secure a first away triumph in a 43 year history slipped away.  He said “It shows how far we have come but how far we have to go to be able to compete at the highest level?”

His call is justified because this is rugby among two teams that is in the first seven in the world. Compare this to the many instances that one hears of pronouncements  in Sri Lanka ,both in club as well as in schools , that  the penalty counts of around  25  to 30 are high . That is despite the fact that we are among the 2nd tier in both national and youth rugby standing in Asia. Obviously skill levels are not five star and more mistakes are likely.

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

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