The ups and downs of Air Force rugby
By Bernie Wijesekera
In the past the Sri Lanka Air Force rugby team was a force to be reckoned with. They possessed players of international class, who did proud for the service and for the country at national level. But things took a turn for various factors - including exigencies of duty. Some of them lost their lives whilst serving the country's clarion call. One of them was old Royalist D.S. Wickremasinghe. They had the likes of Sriyantha Rajakaruna, 'Iron Man' Nalin de Silva, Tikiri Marambe, Caldera, Tony Wimalasuriya, S.U. Mendis, Channa Gunaratne, Omar Sheriff etc.

They had rugby crazy Air Marshal, Harry Gunatilleke giving them all support and encouragement. The past is forgotten, the present is here, but the future is unknown.
Today despite the available talent drawn from rural youth with hardly any school rugby experience.

They are striving to keep the game alive among the rank and file. The likes of senior officers S. Rambukwella, Channa Gunaratne and Harsha Fernando etc., are working down the line - even without foreign players in the scrum. This is where the Rugby Union must help them with men and material. At least they must frame laws not to include foreign players. Then the match the (opponents) should confine to local players only. Otherwise it's not development.

This season the Airmen are fortunate to have Old Rajan and Thomian scrum half Trevor Nugawela to coach them. He possess a storehouse of knowledge. He is totally committed, has played for DACC and for up country and captained Dimbulla. Besides he is a Level II Wales trained coach.

With the limited resources he has done a good job. The Airmen played 14 games and won 7 matches, unlike last year they managed to win only 3 games. In the Premier K.O. quarter-final match against the Havies gave them a close run. The different was that the Havies fielded two foreigners - match winners. Nugawela said after the match he was happy with the performance of the Air Force team.

The only player with school experience was S. Fernando, the captain from Isipatana. Sanjay Fernando, an officer is a dedicated player, who really works hard and plays the game for the right reasons. He leads by example. Winger Rohan Fernando, a Sri Lanka poolist, Sajith Bandara, the fly-half Ruwan Chandrasekera, the centre, Anura Shantha from the nucleus of the side.

Unlike in the past there is not much young talent from the schools joining the Services, but the Airmen are determined to play and promote and develop the game. They possess the passion for rugby.

Are you going to be in the scrum in the years to come. Yes. If my services are required I'll be there to help them. He agreed that the Rugby Union at least must confine the Premier trophy only for locals, thereby give playing opportunities to the local players.

There are quite a number of strongly built rural youth in the Services. They could be trained at grassroots level. The Airmen, too are not short of them, to answer the country's national call.

Back to Top  Back to Sports  

Copyright © 2001 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd. All rights reserved.
Contact us: | Editorial | | Webmaster|