The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Havelocks on its wheels again

Rubgy talk

Surrounded by a grand pavilion and facilities of an international standard, Havelocks and CH took to a freshly-laid turf to do battle yesterday. The ground which has seen so many great national players now stands proud again. The charm of the old clubhouse, ‘the watering hole’, still remains and brings back memories. The 1925 pavilion-on-wheels still stands, used more for games of cards particularly ‘bridge’. The club which was threatened out of existence now stands tall mainly due to the efforts of the President of the SLRFU, Asanga Seneviratne, who brought in an attractive sponsorship through Nations Lanka Finance.

Havelocks Sports Club was the place for camaraderie as well as a meeting point for rugby enthusiasts.  While preserving its history of rich traditions they helped boys from many schools in their rugby career. I say this because it was a combined schools team.  It was the premier rugby club, a home for rugby and friendship.  In recent times it saw the slight erosion of this status as it fell from being among the top. Havelocks was formed in 1915 with Dr. V. R. Schokman as its first President. CR and FC, which started in 1922, depended on the Havelock Sports club for their practices and matches during their formative years.

The club climbed many steps and was among the giants of the game in the 50’s, 70’s and 80’s.  Havelocks won the Clifford Cup on six occasions and the league title four times. Looking back through history, Desmond   Harridge led the Havies to victory in the Clifford Cup in 1974 while in 1976 Thajone Savanghan led them to the rugby double of the league title and the Clifford Cup.  In 1977 Jeff de Jong’s team retained the Clifford Cup. The big one came in 1978 when the team, led by Anton Benedict, won the triple. Previously Anton had led the Police to win the Clifford Cup in 1972.  Frank Hubert’s team took the SLRFU President’s Trophy in1980 and in 1981. The Angelo Wickremarthne-led team won the triple. They won the SLRFU President’s Trophy in 1984 under the Late M.S. Sallay, before taking a back seat thereafter.  It was also the home for many schools as its winning captains included four from St. Peter’s, two from Isipathana and one from St. Joseph’s.

In Havies history, Larry Foenander and Hubert Aloysious, both doctors, are two people that will be remembered. Larry was a shining example of a perfect leader and great coach (Havelocks produced not only players but also great coaches such as Y.C Chang and Gamini Feranando).  Hubert Aloysious  ruled the roost, singing heartily and cracking a joke from his endless store of rugby humour, often joined by Quinten Israel who will always be fondly remembered. In 1961 he was chosen to captain the team and most of his team members were very young, some just out of school; but charismatic Hubert knew how to motivate them. Ultimately, he produced a match-winning outfit that brought the Clifford Cup to the Park after a lapse of 10 long years. Another great name that is talked of is that of Cmdr. Eustace Matthysz, an inspiring president.

The club also remembers Rusty Von Bergheim, who was a live wire in organizing social events. Other player names that stick out include the great combination of Nimal Marlande and Dickie Jayatilleke , Maurice   Silva, who regularly exercised his vocal cords,  Tyrone Holdenbottle , Raja Sumanesekera and Ken de Joedt. The Savanghan Brothers, Ratnam Brothers, Rodregues Brothers, Len Silva and Hisham Abdeen  too  have a permanent place in the history of the club.

Havelocks have not been among  the best  in the recent past and success has eluded them from 1984, though they won the sevens in 1986,1987, 1995, 2000 and 2003. Apart from performing in fits and starts they hit a  particularly bad patch during the last five years.
It was against this backdrop that Havelocks took on CR and FC at Longdon Place and beat them  38 points to  7 . A score with a big enough margin but not a convincing portrayal of the team that had the better profile. Giving away 16 penalties and concedin 13 scrums contributed to the margin of victory not being any larger rather than any attack or defense presented by their  opponents. CR appears to be going through the same process that Havelocks went through with a mass departure of players. The difference is that CR can hold on as funds may not be scarce as they were at Havelocks.  Havelocks’ win against CR comes at a time when they look positively ahead.  As they look ahead with new deciders and motivators, they look back and remember Gamini Fernando , Y.C. Chang , Lal Silva and Michael Jayasekera who stood by the club when the chips were down. It was their time and generous contribution that prevented the requiem being sung.  The recent players who stood while everything was burning around them include Roshan Deen , Chaminda Rupasinghe , Orville Fernando, Sandy Keller , Thusitha   Peries and Wimal Senanayake among others.

The team that looks ahead as the club looks at its centenary year include field mate Tyrone Coonghe and fellow referees Roshan Deen and S.W Chang and I wish them luck. The change has taken place and the challenge is to sustain it.  Havelocks’ Theory of Change formulated by Eric Havelocks says, “Change often embodies a noble desire to improve self or a system, but often people fail to recognize the amount of work that is required in order to effect lasting positive change.” – Vimal Perera is a former Rugby Referee, Coach and Accredited Referees Evaluator IRB

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