By Bernie Wijesekera
Sri Lanka's rugby team's performance at the recent South East Asiad
in Busan was a great disaster. The game needs a proper evaluation.
A mere sticking plaster is not the remedy. A major surgery has to
be done to remove the malady, said Ajit Abeyratne, former Trinity
rugby 'Lion' who led the team in 1967 to emerge unbeaten champions.
interviewed by The Sunday Times. He played as a tough No. 8 for
CR and FC and Sri Lanka. He went on to coach the CR&FC and later
coached the national rugby team. Rugby is his first love, though
he played cricket for Trinity and for CCC. In 1968 he made a 100
against Royal in 62 balls at Asgiriya. That knock is still talked
about in cricketing circles.
Further to that
rugby is literally in his blood. His uncle the famous Trinity rugby
coach Hilary Abeyratne had a hand in turning out many champion teams
and many rugby players to that matter. Hilary is presently in Australia.
Naturally the interest his uncle had in the game has rubbed on to
Ajit, is a keen
student of the game. He minced no words about his observations and
what steps should be taken to uplift the image of rugby which has
hit rock bottom.
Q. In what
way could we overcome this?
A. It needs a pro-active management team who are willing to
sacrifice their time to put the game on course. It has to be an
eight-hour job handled by professionals. People who don't have this
type of commitment should refrain from holding office (especially
executive posts), in any controlling body. This is a common trend
in most sports bodies here. In its wake bring about a power struggle
at the expense of the respective disciplines. People should not
indulge in social rugby administration.
brings about a lack of player commitment, too. Aussie Cricket Manager,
Steve Bernard, who was here at the recent ICC Champions Trophy said,
if Australia is on top of the cricketing ladder it is due to 100
"One can't blame the coaches. The infrastructure has to be
on a firm footing. Past national captains and coaches must be drafted
into the management structure. Priyantha Ekanayake should be one
of them. He has played international rugby at home and abroad and
he is aware of the modern methods of the game. The likes of Rohan
Abeykoon, Lasitha Gunaratne etc. could come into this category.
is doing a good job with the Development Squad. He should be given
all the support and encouragement for its continuity. The present
National Coach, C.P.P. Abeygunawardena's services should be secured
for a couple of years and given the freedom to map out strategy.
No one can perform miracles overnight, specially before an impending
Even the players must be motivated for a higher commitment
and if necessary a sports psychologist should assist them.
Q. What have
you got to say about the schools rugby section.
A. It comes under the Education Sports section. There are quite
a number of chinks in its armour. This is the cradle of rugby. They
should have competent people, who have played the game at the highest
level, not mere figureheads. The future of the sport at the national
level lies here.
two sets of mind. I have noticed this trend. If this is allowed
to manifest there is bound to be a negative effect on the game,
Q. Are you
aware that officials holding office in the respective sports, (teachers)
have not indulged in any ball games.
A. Plans were afoot to get former Sri Lanka stalwart Lionel
Almeida to be in charge of the coaching section. It fell on the
wayside. This is why I have mentioned that there should be professionals
to handle the sport. The Education Department must take serious
note of it with an eye for the future development of the game at
national level. Tuition masters can't hold office. There should
be a setof men who are fully committed. Yes, today many schools
have taken to the scrum. They are good at club level too.
But they should
be able to challenge in order to impart a higher degree of commitment
at national level. Team spirit can't be inculcated just before a
tour (which is a common trend here). Regular team meetings and outings
even during off seasons should be encouraged. Besides the national
squad, there should be a Barbarians squad and the Dev. Squad in
To infuse enthusiasm among the schoolboys there should be under-17,
19 and 21 levels. Similarly there should be two to three squads
in each level with so many schools playing rugby unlike in the past.
Q. What have
you got to say about China's rugby upsurge.
A. A Good example of professional approach during a short period.
George Simpkin has done a tremendous job. George eats and sleeps
rugby. Before long China will be front-runners in the Asian region
to match Japan, S. Korea, Chinese Taipei. It attributes to total
commitment. It is not an impossibility for Sri Lanka. We have a
better rugby history than some of the Asian nations. To achieve
it there should be professional men to handle it.
A good job
The rugby development committee has done a good job at grassroot
level with a professional approach. At present Arjun Dharmadasa
and Kumar Abywardene are continuing the good work of their predecessor,
To harness this
abundant player base (5,000) it needs Pro. Junior National coaches.
They should be supported by an excellent management team by the
Q. What about
A. There are local sponsors to help, provided it's run properly.
Further, the IRB is regularly helping. I am confident they will
further increase their support, provided there are positive results,
to show that the game is improving, concluded Abeyratne.
politics with a trophy
All's not well with Sri Lanka rugby at present. In its wake the
name of a challenge trophy on offer for the Schools and Club K.O.
tournament has been changed at the whims and fancies of the powers
that be. It looks as if rugby is playing politics even with trophy
at the behest of individuals.
The former President
of Sri Lanka late Ranasinghe Premadasa, did much for the re-development
of the Sugathadasa Stadium to be tagged as one of the best international
venues in Asia. Besides the late President did much for the uplift
of sports at grassroots level.
for his unflagging enthusiam the then rugby union, officials in
1984 organised a K.O. tournament (for both schools and clubs) in
his name - the Premadasa Trophy K.O. tournament. Amid pomp and pagentry
staged at the Sugathadasa Stadium CR & FC beat CH & FC in
the final 16-14. Asanga Seneviratne scored 12 points for the winners.
It roused great
spectator interest. After his demise - things took a change. The
humble Price Park Premadasa, who played football and started his
life at Saunders Place to emerge the first citizen of the country
was forgotten by the very people who started the tournament in his
name, (SLRFU). The trophy was re-named President's trophy!
It has taken
another turn now. It's going to be called the Premier Trophy. It's
worse than playing musical chairs. Whom are they now trying to appease.
The move musthave caused a lot of embarrassment to Prime Minister
Take the prestigious
Bradby Shield rugby match played between Royal and Trinity. The
name has not being changed since it was inaugurated, and will be
there for generations to come. Its name was not changed when the
late J.R. Jayewardene became the first Royalist to be the President
of Sri Lanka. The Royal O.B.A., stood by the Bradby Shield. 'J.R'
played cricket and rugby for Royal along with late D.W.L. Lieversz
For that matter
Trinity could have suggested the name of late Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwe
an outstanding rugby player, who excelled from the base for his
school the Army and for the country.
An officer and
a gentleman, who sacrificed his life for an unitary State. Saner
counsel from the respective OBAs prevailed, but still maintains
the traditions todate.Changing the name of a trophy is not the panacea
for the ongoing rugby ills. (B.W.)
hockey a hearing, pleads Rosayro
Is hockey a dying sport in the island?. In the 60s this
sport was classed behind India and Pakistan in the Asian Region.
Now the game is struggling to survive. Added to that the Astro Turf
which is at Reid Avenue is in a neglected state. The Sports Ministry
is completely ignoring the game and in its wake the Mercantile Hockey
Association headed by stalwart Dennis de Rosayro is making arrangements
to conduct their annual Seven-a-Side hockey tournament on October
27 at Havelock Park from 8. a.m. onwards. This popular tournament
is being sponsored by Unilever Ceylon Limited for the 21st consecutive
a hearing", pleaded Dennis de Rosayro when the Sunday Times
contacted Dennis de Rosayro to verify why the Mercantile 'A' division
tournaments has not been held so far. He stressed that they were
unable to conduct the competition without a proper venue.
a tournament of this nature is played on Astro Turf. The only Astro
Turf in Colombo is available at Reid Avenue. The other one is in
Matale, which is also not functioning according to the standards
of national players", said Rosayro. He went on to say that
he had paid the grounds fees last year for the two tournaments but
the competitions have not been conducted so far due to the sad state
of the Astro Turf.
as to how the two key inter-school games (Royal -Thomian) and (Ananda
- Nalanda) were played on the Astro Turf, he said that the schoolboys
played at their own risk and there was the immeninet danger that
they could get injured very badly due to the sad state of the Astro
out that most of the players in mercantile teams are national players
and they don't want to take a risk. This is a valid reason to consider.
In the early
60's hockey was behind India and Pakistan in the Asian region but
the game has dropped down so badly that even Bangladesh is better
than Sri Lanka now. Dennis lamented that hockey is a neglected game
now and is being given stepmotherly treatment. The Mercantile Hockey
Association is one association which keeps the game alive with regular
of money is spent on sports but hockey has been forgotten",
lamented Dennis. Why?
of Sports Johnston Fernando, said at a press conference held at
his ministry recently that all sports would be looked after accordingly.
As the first step the minister could do justice for hockey players
if the Astro Turf at Reid Avenue is repaired.