The unknown journey of young Linton
By Bernie Wijesekera
When he was young, while gazing at the sea line hugging the shores of Tangalle while still a student at Christ Church College, in the deep south of Sri Lanka, young Linton would never have thought that someday he would go down as an immortal in the annals of Police rugby. Still the thoughts would have been the same when young Linton joined its ranks as a raw Police constable even without knowing that there existed a game by the name of rugby. Time took its toll. Linton was a born athlete and taking to rugby was no mean task. However this move alone proved to be the ‘silver spoon’ that he sought his whole life. Climbing the Police ladder the rugby way mingled with honest work on the beat, forty two years later Linton retired as a Chief Inspector.

Still the humble man in spite of being a marauding forward in the Police pack Linton took time with us to take a ‘walk down memory lane’.

Q: Did you indulge in sports as a schoolboy?
Yes, Volleyball, athletics and swimming. Even swam for Colombo Fishtails.

Q: How come you turned to be an outstanding rugby player?
After joining the Police. I first took to rugby when I was taken to play in the police inter-district 7s in 1959. S.P. Mr. Fred Brohier was impressed with my performance. At the end of the day he drafted me to the Police squad. At that time ruling the roost in the Police squad were the likes of S. Sivendran, ‘Brute’ Mahendran, James Senaratne, Tony Mahat, Larry Schokman, Sumith and Rahula Silva etc. players who could send a chill through any opposition.

Q: Who coached you?
Rudra Rajasingham at grassroots level. He had abundant patience and understanding. He treated all alike. I had much to learn from him on and off the field. Later, late Kavan Rambukwella and Mohan Shayam coached us. With this foundation we never looked back. Like many others, I learnt rugby skills after joining the Police. I initially played as a prop forward then later moved into play as a wing forward. During my time the game was very competitive at club level. There were no pushover sides. We always had to play against strong teams drawn from the Planting districts. Where most were foreign players playing in the ‘pack’.

Then in 1970 Police emerged joint champs along with Havelock SC in the Clifford Cup. We owed a lot to Sivendran for that performance. He was a good leader. Besides that he had a sense of humour on and off the field. In 1973, the Blue shirted team showed their prowess sharing the Clifford Cup with Army in an arousing final. This time the team was led by Nizam Hajireen.

Q: What was your most unforgettable moment in your rugby career?
In 1976, I was the first ranker to be appointed as captain of the Police First XV, as a sergeant. Police had a strong ‘eight’. In the front-row-‘Rock’ Banda, ‘Tanker’ Ibrahim Hamid, Moseth. Without doubt the best third –row-in the clubs myself, Rohan Gunaratne (No.8), and Daya Jayasundera. Then we had the affable Charles Wijewardena as fullback. He was a tower of strength in the last line, with his booming kicks to touch. During that season I was promoted sub-inspector. I think I earned it. We had to work and play (including night rounds) unlike at present times. No fringe benefits. At times had to make use of our own resources.

Q: As captain what was your disappointment?
In 1976, we came to the Clifford Cup semis and there we lost to Havelocks. They were a strong outfit -- Glen Van Langenberg, Jupana Jayawardena, Holdenbottle, Gogi Tillekeratne, Shaffie Jainudeen, Sunderalingam, etc. Havies beat Navy in the final to win the Clifford Cup.

Q: Any tours abroad, the police team made?
In 1973 we toured S.E. India, under Hajireen. During this period I must mention that officers of the caliber of V.T. Dickman, Mr. Thurairatnam, Mr. Ernest Perera later IGP etc. gave us all support and encouragement for sports. Rugby hit a purple patch when the law enforcing officers dominated the local scene.


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