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.
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.