Is this the way to develop rugby?
By Bernie Wijesekera
Currently ten teams are taking part in the Premier Trophy 'A' div. rugby league tournament. Imagine there are minnows in the scrum-teams like the Old Zahirians and Kandy Youth. Will they ever make an impact in the league? If one went by their performances in the ongoing matches all three teams suffered heavy defeats.

Worst was Kurunegala who were thrashed by Kandy S.C (the reigning league champions) by a record margin of 172-nil. Kurunegala is finding it difficult even to get a 25-member squad to train, according to one of their officials - a former Sri Lanka player now stationed in the district. It should have been better if they played in the 'B' Division in the district tournament than being accommodated in the top league.

According to sources a leading club is trying to help them with two foreigners. It's not going to serve the cause. What about the other members of the squad, who do not have the skills, stamina, and strength to match their opponents? Apparently even with the services of the two foreigners they are bound to be outplayed and outclassed by their opponents.

Own strength
They should have got the exposure on their own strength than made to run for shelter. The Rugby Union should have focused attention on development rather than aimlessly increasing the number of clubs in the top division. This is not development. A country like Australia today is dominating two sports - cricket and rugby, in the world circuit.

It attributes to proper organisation by the controlling bodies. At competitive level their standard is pretty high. Their cricket 'A' team could match any cricketing nation. They are not bothered about players getting burnt out. The cupboards are full with young talent to take-over at short notice.

Former Pakistani great, Imran Khan, testified to this effect. The Sheffield Shield Championship is the best in the world. Well organised and very competitive no quarter given none asked for. Currently ten teams are playing in the 'A' league. Six top teams will be confronted in the "super" league.

"The contenders for the 'Super Six' will go hell-bent to massacre the minnows to get that much-needed bonus points to enter the last six. This is not going to help the game or develop it to reach higher levels. Bonus points should not decide the ultimate winners with so many minnows in the scrum.

The Rugby Union may be kind hearted, with their words by allowing the minnows to play in the top league. Their words must be translated into deeds.

Proper coaching
They should be afforded with men and material. The rural youth need encouragement with proper coaching and motivation. They should be afforded with job opportunities to play for their district teams than migrating to affluent clubs. This is a crying need.

Galle RFU, an emerging club in Ruhuna, made a sensible decision to opt out of the Premier 'A' league. Thanks to the brainwave of Kumar Abeywardena, who is the mainspring, behind Ruhunu rugby development. Kumar doesn't believe on expatriates to promote the game on short-term plans. He believes in wholesome acts with an eye for the future of the game at national level. In all probability he will get the support of former Sri Lanka and Kandy SC player, Ickram Odayar, who is now stationed in Galle to help the rural youth with his know-how.

Bonus points only
It should be a better suggestion for SLRFU to carry the bonus for the "Super Six" only that qualify for the second round. They could also field their expatriates only for those six teams that qualify for the second round and in its wake make it more competitive.
The Army suggested that no team should field expatriates against their opponents who are not blessed with foreigners.

This suggestion made before the season failed to get the nod. CH and FC in their last outing left their foreign players out in their confrontation against Navy. The matches that were played in the last three weeks, were televised at much expense, but failed to have its desired effect. It was pale ale rugby. No fans to watch. Had schools like Royal, Isipatana or St. Peter's played, they could have provided much fire and sparks and put some pressure on their opponents than the minnows, said one ardent fan of yester-year who has played at the highest level. This is not development he said.

14 teams scrum down for Sabaragamuwa Rugby sevens
Rugby football has a cherished history in Kelani Valley in the past where the planting fraternity dominated the sport. Foreign and local planters formed the nucleus.

The sport was on the wane. But during the last few years it has been revived thanks to the efforts of the Sabaragamuwa RFU, who has spread the gospel among the rural boys and girls with a development programme organised by Arjun Dharmadasa, the present chairman of the SLRFU Rugby Development Committee. Arjun has been the cog-in-the-wheel with a coaching programme giving them encouragement with men and material.

They have been given the exposure to indulge in competitive rugby among the schools and the clubs in the district. Some of the schoolboys, who have excelled at the junior level - especially from Embilipitiya M.V. have been afforded with scholarships. Today they are turning out for some of the leading schools in Colombo.

Clubs have been formed. The 7s tournament to be staged at the Ratnapura Stadium on May 17 has drawn 14 teams, according to the tournament secretary, K.S.P. Karunaratne. It will be played for the Cup, Plate and Bowl.

K.V. will field two teams, followed by S'gamuwa RFU (1), Balangoda (2), Eheliyagoda (2), K'galle (2) and Embilipitiya (2) The 7s will be followed by the league tournament, which will commence on May 25 and the finals on July 4. The league tournament will be finalised with a discussion on May 17 at 2 p.m. After the second round matches the league championship will be held. A representative from each participating team should attend this confab which will coincide with the 7s tournament to be held at the R'pura Stadium (B.W.)

Mercedes-Benz Trophy Country Finals
The popular Mercedes-Benz Trophy Sri Lanka Country Golf Finals started in 1990 has come to stay. Its a much looked forward to event in the local golf calendar.

Dimo took up the challenge to sponsor this event, thanks to its former president Alexander Pandithege. This will be staged at the RCGC greens for the 12th successive year - year 2003 Country Golf Classic on May 24 (Saturday) said, Ranjith Pandithege in a media briefing held at the RCGC on May 8.

It has injected tremendous enthusiasm among the local golfers to prove their mettle and get an opportunity of taking part in the Asian Finals to be held at Gold Coast (Australia). The World finals will be at Stuttgart, Germany the home of Mercedes-Benz.

Sarath Piyaratne, the Club Captain, RCGC, who chaired the meeting along with Kumar Boralessa (vice-capt), outlined this 'Classic' which has gained international recognition.

Last year, Capt. Navin de Silva, of the SriLankan Airlines, created history, when he qualified for the Stuttgart World finals with a stupendous effort at the Asian Golf finals at the Gold Coast Holiday Resort greens.

Piyaratne, thanked Dimo for sponsoring the event and for its continuity. Over 200 local golfers will tee off in three groups - 'A', 'B' and 'C' on a handicap. The winner and first runner-up in the respective groups will qualify for the Asian finals at Gold Coast later this year. Golfers from other continents, too will tee off, said Piyaratne.

At the inception only about 100 golfers participated, but today over 4000 golfers from 36 countries will be taking part. Sri Lanka was represented by Alain Gyi, F.J. de Saram, (Group 'A'), Jo. II Ko, and Capt. Navin de Silva (Group 'B') and Group 'C' by two juniors - Sanjaya Gunawardena and Shivantha de Soysa.

The Mercedes-Benz Trophy golf finals - is the only tournament that provides international exposure. Dimo hierarchy, headed by Ranjith Pandithege, is an ardent promoter of sports. Ranjith focuses much attention in encouraging the poorman's sport - football with men and material to uplift their image. -BW

Sailing at grassroots level
The Yachting Association of Sri Lanka, the national body for yachting has established an Optomist Sailing Academy for the promotion and development of the sport among juniors (ages 10 to 16).

The future and the development of this sport depends on the younger generation. Several schools have been roped in for this popular sport. They are undergoing training. Incidentally there is an annual Royal-Thomian regatta in the calendar.
The YASL at its last AGM has decided to rope in more schools than confining it to a selected lot. If Sri Lanka is to make an impact at international level, then the future lies among the youth.

The training will be handled by competent coaches at the Bolgoda Lake, Moratuwa. A fee will be charged for using Optomist Boats and Life Saving equipment. It's an eight-day weekend course. Girls and boys within the ages of 10 and 15 who could swim are eligible to join the coaching programme.

Knowledge of English will be an added qualification for communication when the services of foreign coaches will be obtained.
Further details could be had from The Yachting Association of Sri Lanka, P.O. Box 256, Colombo or (Tel. 0717-38184). -BW

Back to Top  Back to Sports  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.