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Sublime Royal Rugby ‘81

Down memory lane with Sujeeva Cooray and Ravi Wijenathan

By Sujith Silva

Royal College 1st XV Rugby in 1981 filled with eleven colours men, a star-studded line-up with most of them later went onto represent Club Rugby, won the Noel Gratean Cup in ’81 under Sujeeva Cooray. This was the Official Tournament for Schools that year. However, they lost the 1st leg of Bradby encounter and though won the 02nd leg lost the shield after three years. Sujeeva Cooray was the Chief Guest at the 1st leg of the 74th Bradby Shield encounter held at Royal College Sports Complex last year. Sujeeva along with his teammates of 1981 held the customary Bradby gathering and we thought it apt that we capture their story on Royal, Rugby and Life. For that we met Sujeeva Cooray and his team mate Ravi Wijenathan.

A true blooded Sporting Royalists who led Royal College 1st XV Rugby with distinction in 1981, Sujeeva who retired recently as Head of HR at Cinnamon Grand Hotels, started off by reminiscing his nostalgic Schools Days “I was at Royal College since Grade 01 and during those days it was called Royal Junior School. I was there till 1976, the year we moved into Royal College. It was a fun filled time. I remember well, Mr. Weerasinghe who is always dressed in a white national kit and his trademark moustache never to be forgotten. Mr. Sugathapala was my first principal whilst at Royal Junior School. He was not into sports but the principal who replaced him was a very keen follower of sports so we all took to sports. I remember in ’76 representing Royal Junior in cricket (Under 14) and athletics”. Sujeeva was the Head Prefect and Athletics captain of Royal Junior School. They won the Junior Tarbet in athletics that year at Asgiriya, Kandy and that was the first and only year that Royal Junior School won the Junior Tarbet as the school was merged with the upper school (Royal College) in the following year. At the Junior Tarbet, he established the public school record for the Under 14 200M event which he held for 18 years. The team included hurdler Ajith Fernando, the Indraratne twins, Deepika and Sriyan. Interestingly the champion Under 14 4 X 100M relay team consisted of three who were born on the same day. The Indraratne twins and Sujeeva. The 4th member of the team was Deepika who is now a doctor. The Indraratne brothers are now domiciled in USA.

 

“I remember while playing for RJS ‘Royal Junior School’ in the under 14 cricket team against S. Thomas’ Prep, there was a bowler by the name of Pasupathy. He was really fast. During those days we didn’t have much protective gear. No helmets, just a very thin thigh pad. So we were terrified and had a time facing him in the middle. All of us came back into the pavilion with bruises on the thighs or arms as this chap was so fast and we simply couldn’t get our bat to the ball. Then after he completed his NCGE in 76, Pasupathy joined Royal and we were relieved and thrilled to have him on our side. Mr. Senanayake, a prim and proper Gentlemen was our first Cricket coach at ‘RJS’. He was a teacher cum Cricket coach. Some of my team mates were Pasqual who was the captain, then the vice-captain was Sonna, Pasupathy, Asitha de Silva, Deepthi Narampanawa, Dilshaad Sidiq, Krishan Vira, Ajith Fernando, just to name a few.”

“Looking back, my father who was fondly called “Ray” by his friends was not a known sportsman but he was an absolute sports fanatic. He had played some cricket and rugger while he was studying in England. He loved sports. He was the one who pushed us, me and my brother, into sports. Where we are today is thanks to him. Back in the days in the 70’s, we didn’t have much facilities for sports unlike today. The technology, equipment, were at a primitive level in Sri Lanka. He went to great lengths to purchase the required equipment for our training even from overseas, which was not an easy task during those days. I still remember, the first track suite my father got me, which was a blue and gold Adidas set. He used to read about the various training techniques from books he borrowed from the British Council and he would coach us in Athletics, Cricket and Rugby. He would take us to the Sports Ministry grounds where he had booked the cricket nets and let us bat while he bowled for countless hours. Thanks to his passion and dedication, we achieved the great heights in Sports, so much so, my friends still talk about my father who was so involved in our sports activities. From my mother’s side, we had an illustrious uncle, Mahesh Rodrigo who was a legend in Cricket and Rugby. Maybe due to his influence along with the persistence of my father, my brother and I have excelled in sports. Sriyan was two years junior to me and he too was into cricket, athletics and rugby and went onto captain Royal 1st XV in 1983. My sister, Devini, who is one year younger than I, studied at Ladies College and she was into Kandyan Dancing. The two of them (my brother and sister) say I used to bully them, but I don’t think so. We had a fantastic time growing up. I must say having a younger sister who was attending a neighbouring girls school came quite handy when growing up. Especially getting to know her friends” Sujeeva recalled with a cheeky smile”.

Down Memory Lane – Sujeeva’s fond memories

“In 1977 my friends and team mates, moved to Royal College. Straightaway we got into all the sports we loved. First came under 16 cricket. In fact, we had three Under 16 cricket teams as there was a large turnout. I was the Captain of the B team. After playing Under 16 we moved on to 2nd XI Cricket where I played under the captaincy of Suraj Attygala, who is now a Captain in an international Airline. I continued my cricket during the 1978/79 season. My teammates included Akbarali, Gulam Faisalabas, Krishan Vairavanathan, Asitha De Silva, Ajith Fernando, and Deepthi. I remember very well the Centenary Battle of the Blues under Ranjan Madugalle where C P Richards and Mahinda Halangoda put on a match saving partnership for the Thomians. I was a steward at the match and was on duty on that day. We were eagerly waiting for the celebrations. But it was not to be. Then again I think it was a fitting result to a game played in the best spirits of sportsmanship”

“I also continued my athletics. I was privileged to be a member of the team that included some of the Royal greats, like, Ravi Vidyalankara, Ferdinando, ‘Kotiya’ Ranasinghe, Roshan Fernando to name a few. Since I was heavily involved in cricket and athletics, though all my friends started to play Rugger in ’77, I did not join them that year. However, in 1978, I too joined the Under 17 rugby squad for Royal College. That year I was also able to play 1st XV along with my current Chairman at John Keells Susantha Ratnayake, in the SLRFU (Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union) Centenary celebrations. Since most of the 1st XV players had taken a break or had done their A/Ls by then, the College decided to get the Under 17 players to fill in. I was fortunate enough to be selected mainly due to my size and being a sprinter, to play my first and only 1st XV game for the ‘78 season. It was the Centenary Knockout Tournament match against S. Thomas’ College. Though we lost, I had the privilege of playing alongside Skipper Rohantha Peiris, Dil Peiris, Susantha Ratnayake, Sujantha Kumar, Raba Gunesekera, to name a few. I still remember Christopher Thambipillai who intercepted a pass and ran through to score that winning try for the Thomians. That was not the end of our Rugger season for ’78 as I was a member of the Royal College Rugby team that later toured Thailand for the Asian Schools tournament”.

“In athletics, I focused on the sprints and the long jump. This helped me to easily get into rugby and I played as a Wing three quarter. However, though I had a good track record in athletics, with the involvement in rugby, athletics became my part time sport. My friend Pasupathy who was also into athletics was offered the athletics Captaincy and I was offered the Vice Captaincy but we both turned it down as Pasupathy wanted to concentrate on studies while I was finding it difficult to manage with cricket & rugby. In fact, as Athletics captain at Royal, one has to marshal the junior and senior athletes and ensure their attendance, training and participation at all meets. That is a year round job. I did not have the time to devote for this. So, I turned it down but I was able to perform at a level that got me my public schools colours for Athletics”.

“My first full Rugby season was in 1979 under the late Raba Gunasekere. Unfortunately, there are some of us who barely remember the results or what happened during the season. But then, we have our teammate and good friend Ravi Wijenathan who played alongside me, who will reminisce all the details, the moves, the tries, the scores leaving me wondering about my memory”.

Ravi Wijenathan, who recently retired as a General Manager at MAS Holdings with a career spanning over three decades in the corporate world as a Senior Marketer also played a significant role in 1981 Royal College side as well as Royal College Rugby since leaving school. He went further by representing and leading CH & FC and also representing Sri Lanka Rugby while actively engaging in SLRFU under various positions of the governing body of Rugby in Sri Lanka.

Ravi Wijenathan – former Sri Lanka, CH & FC and Royal College 1st XV Rugger player

Here’s Ravi reminiscing his memories “Royal College won the Bradby in 1978 after losing it in ’77 and most of us from the 1980/81 sides were playing in the Under 17 team that year. Royal College went on to win the Bradby for three years in a row from ’78 to ’80 for the first time.  Also, first time the Simithraaratchy Trophy was on offer for the Under 17 encounter before the Bradby game. Some of us played in that team led by Leon Fonseka who was my partner as ‘Prop’ in the ’81 team. Basically this was the build-up for ’81. In ’79 under late Raba Gunasekera we won the Bradby once again and players namely (from ’81)  Sujeewa Cooray the ’81 Captain, Kapila Peiris ’81 Vice Captain, Sumitha Fonseka  Shanaka Gunaratne and Leon Fonseka played in that team. Royal won the Bradby first time for three years in a row and our preparation for 1981 season was very strong as we had eleven players who played during that period, mostly under Sujantha Kumar in 1980.

Sujeeva recalled “I do remember the 1981 season quite well. During our days at Royal, we did not have a Rugby Grounds to practice. We had to wait till the Cricket season was over which is after the Royal-Thomian cricket match, to start our rugby practices at the Reid Avenue Grounds. We had to play across the cricket pitches, which was a hard surface. Getting tackled or tackling someone on that pitch was quite painful. But that is how we trained and practiced. Thankfully we now have a purpose-built Rugby stadium at the Royal College Sports Complex. During our days we didn’t have warmup gear, nutrition supplements, protective gear etc. These were not even heard of but we all played our hearts out purely for the love of the game”.

“During the season of 1980 under Sujan’s Captaincy I remember the match against St. Peter’s at Bambalapitiya. The other wing three quarter Saldin got a high tackle and got injured. It was a neck injury and he was in a quite serious condition lying there on the ground but luckily we had Dr. Fred Pereira who immediately attended to him and got him rushed to hospital which saved his life”.

Ravi remembered all games played during the 1981 season. Here’s what he recalled “Team was expected do well in ’81 with 11 coloursmen and which we did really well by winning all barring the 1st leg of Bradby. Our first game was against Ananda College at Reid Avenue and we beat a strong Ananda side by 18-3. Ananda used to have some good players those days, Anil Dassanayake who was my team mate at CH & FC, who captained CH & FC in 88 played in that game. Then we met St. Anthony’s College Katugastota another strong side. I remember they had L.V. Ekanayake, Priyantha’s brother who partnered me as Prop for Sri Lanka in the 80’s, and few more players who later turned out for Clubs. We managed to beat them by 16-0 up in Kandy. Our next game was against St. Peter’s College captained by Keith Nugegoda, we beat them by 16-7 at Reid Avenue. A good game. Next was St. Joseph’s College and we beat them convincingly at Reid Avenue and set a record too for the series, which still stands 72-0. I remember our Coach Summa Navaratnam telling me from the side lines that there will be no colours if I scored one more try.  The first try was scored by me .There were occasion our forwards went over the line and still released the ball for the threes to score. Coloursmen Kapila Peris, Leon Fonseka and Johaan Muller were rested for this game.

We beat Dharmaraja College by 31-0 and then faced a crunch game against Isipathana at Maitland Crescent. A very close game, played under lot of pressure and Isipathana under Leslie de Silva came so close to beat us. They had Dilroy Fernando, M.D. Ifthikar, Hector Gunatilleke, Kamal Mahendra Subasinghe and Harsha Guneratne and few more really good spirited players. Harsha was a team mate of mine in the ‘83 CH & FC team. They play with so much of spirit which is their forte. Most of them are good friends to date. We had Seevali Jayasinghe and D.S. Gunaratne as flanker who gave some match saving tackles during the final stages of the game. A match well remembered, we won it by 4-0.

Our next opponent was S.Thomas’ College and it was played at Havelock Park. Not an easy game, it was a penalty game as Johaan Muller put over two penalties for Royal and I think it was Derrick Karunaratne converted one for S. Thomas’. We won by 6-3 and the Gunaratne Trophy which was on offer. I remember Chaminda Rupasinghe, Sidath Nagahawatte, Roshan Perera turned out for Thomians and they were a very strong side in ’81. These players went on to play Club Rugby and we became good buddies. Roshan Perera was a team mate of mine for CH & FC. He bound with me in the front row as hooker from 1983 to 1986.

Then we played Thurstan College, who had a good side too. I remember Sathyapriya Liyanage played in that game. It was a quite a controversial, tensed game played at Longdon Place Refereed by late Mohamed Moosa and we won by 14-0. After the game Royal team had to be escorted out of the pavilion with Police protection. Sathiya Jaysuriya was sent off the field for unwarranted play which was not well taken by the Thurstan supporters.

Our next game was 1st leg of Bradby in Kandy and we were unbeaten. The preparations were strenuous. Mr. Summa Navaratnam was our coach and our physical trainer was for former Army and Sri Lanka hooker, Alphonso Rodrigo. I was playing as lose head Prop along with Michelle Wickramaratne (now think a minute fame pastor Dishan Wickramaratne) played as Hooker and Leon Fonseka as tight head Prop. Michelle played along with me up to 1st leg of Bradby and in the 2nd leg he was replaced by Dilshad Perera. 02nd rows were Vice Captain Kapila Peiris, the late Dushyantha Kumar and the late Sabry Marikkar. Marikkar played as regular second row while Dushyantha Kumar played in between few matches and the 2nd leg of the Bradby. The 3rd row was Seevali Jayasinghe and D.S. Gunaratne as flanker and Naren Chanmugam as No.08. Gihan Malalasekere came in and replaced D.S. in the 02nd leg of Bradby. Scrum half was Sriyan Cooray, Fly half was Gobi Kandaiyha with two centres Hiran Muttaiha and Sumitha Fonseka. Wings were Sujeewa Cooray and S.Y. Liu. S.Y Liu was replaced by Suraj Gunasekera in the 2nd Leg.   Full Back was Johaan Muller. We also had few players playing standing in for the regulars. Mohan Molligoda was stand by prop, Manoj Gunawardena Stand by Hooker, A.S. Tennakoon wing, Premraj Peiris Full back and Suresh Navaratnam for centre.

The forwards were, perceived as unfit by our Trainer, so we were given a hectic schedule before the 1st leg. Summa and Alphonso gave us hardcore fitness drills Leading up to the 1st leg, during that week I suffered Shin splints (pain along the inner edge of the shinbone). I couldn’t even walk and was asked to rest by Summa and did not train until the final training day on Thursday, day before our departure to Kandy. I was under medication with Ayurveda treatment but made it to the grounds and sat out watching the training sessions. Those days we didn’t have physio or Specialist Doctors to look after the squad. We had our Medicine man Dr. Maiya Gunasekere treating us and making us available to play on call.

On the day of the match, we were forced to walk to the Nittawela Grounds with our boots on from the tunnel itself or beyond that as the Bus couldn’t move due to heavy traffic. Of course Trinity was on full song as they were playing in Kandy. They had a peculiar tactic, which we got to know later on. Their coach Lt Col Bertie Dias had changed the team jersey numbers to wear it in the reverse order. Full back Ravi Ponnambalam was wearing No.01 Jersey while Roshan Ratwatte prop wore the no 15 Jersey. This was a tactic so that players cannot be targeted, for injury, based on Jersey no. It was quite an amusing thing. We knew every Trinity players by their face and never went behind their jerseys. However I must say that Trinity had a wonderful side with the captain Ravi Bandaranayake being hectic tackler. We lost our scrums with Michelle Wickrameratne being outhooked by Dilip Adihetti. We did not have possession. Trinity backs ran the ball wide or hit the half gaps. First try was scored by Winger Nihal Gunawardena dashing over 30 meters out running our threes. In the 2nd half it was Athlete winger Ananda Wicremasinghe scoring. We just had one penalty kicked over by Leon Fonseka in the first half. Johann Muller missed a penalty 30 meters out.  In the second half, Hiran Muttiah got injured by a Ravi Banda, a crash tackle and replaced by Suresh Navaratnam. We were on the defensive or on back foot with little or no possession in unfamiliar conditions at Nittawela ground which had a slope towards the main entrance those days. It was never easy playing in Kandy. Last try which sealed the game and the Bradby too was scored by Flanker Ananda Bulathsinhala who played with us in the Under 17, 2nd XV and the A team at Royal and crossed over to Trinity in 1980. He kicked ahead a loose the ball and chased, ball went over the Goal line and our wing three quarter S.Y.Liu who was a clear 5 meters ahead failed to touch down gifting Ananda a try on the platter. Final score was 16-03 win for Trinity with Ravi Ponnambalam converting 2 tries.

It was a bad loss, with 11 coloursmen and we were completely outplayed. We were down and had to pick ourselves up from the dumps. It was my final year and before I wore Royal 1st XV Jersey, I had played few games for CH & FC. So, I had experience and have played along with this team for some time and result was disappointing. Summa was not a happy man but he soon realised the fitness schedule had taken toll on the boys in the 1st leg. So once we were back in Colombo, it was a mellowed down training session. We trained hard though. Before the 02nd leg, we had to play Kingswood College which was a Noel Gratiaen Cup Tournament league game which Trinity did not play. It was our first ever tournament and we played really well to beat Kingswood 24-3. We won the Noel Gratiean Cup and was crowned as league Champs. So we were back on track for the 02nd leg at Longdon Place.  We made three changes. Leaving out Michelle Wicremaratne, D.S Gunaratne and S Y Liu for Dilshad Perera, Gehan Malalasekera and Suraj Gunasekera.

This is what Sujeeva had to say about the all-important return leg “Came the 2nd leg, our home ground was CR & FC at Longdon Place which we played most of our home games. We had to counter Ravi Bandaranayake and his team which included Ravi Ponnambalam, Ashan Ratwatte, Byron, Adhihetty brothers, Ananda Wicks and our former Royalist Ana Bulathsinhala who scored against us in Kandy. We also had a pretty good side with Hiran Muttiah, Sumitha Fonseka as centres, Gobi Kandiah ‘Kandos’ as standoff paring with my brother Sriyan who was the scrum half and Johaan Muller as full back. The front row was Leon Fonseka, Dilshad Perera and Ravi ‘Python’, Vice-captain Kapila Peiris in the second row and the solid 3rd row of Gehan, Seevali and ‘sleepy’ Naren Chanmugam. Though he looked sleepy when standing he was everywhere on the field during the game”.

 

Ravi remembers that epic battle “We changed our game plan and took on the game to the Trinity forwards. Trinity was on the defence and we could see it the fear in their eyes. My opposite was Roshan Ratwatte. Those days there was no ‘Crouch, touch and Engage’ for front row. It was just boom, slap bang when you engage with the opposite front row forwards. The strongest survive. The Royal forwards gave a torrid time to the Trinity forwards and we were on the attack inside the Trinity 50 most of the time, a reverse of the 1st leg. We won lot of possession as Dilshad Perera out hooked his opposing hooker Dilip Ardihetti. We had good line out ball from Vice Captain Kapila Peris and Dushantha Kumar in the line outs. I still remember the first try. It was Trinity Ball in their 25. Trinity won a scrum, we wheeled the scrum and the ball popped out from the flankers legs which our flanker Gihan Malalasekera picked it up and passed to Sriyan Cooray who quickly worked the line. The ball was passed to Hiran Muttiah. He took a standing pass side stepped and grub kicked the ball in between Trinity backs. Sujeewa just had to pick it up and score in the right corner flag. We were on top, 4-0. We knew it was our chance. I did a back peel from a line out in the right flank on the 40 meter line, side stepped Lalith Pilapitiya Fly half and I was heading towards the goal post when Ravi Ponnambalam gave me a desperate block tackle sending me crashing to the floor. The ball was still made available, Sriyan quickly worked the line while the Trinity threes was on the back foot. Our Winger Suraj Gunasekera did not have the speed to make use of the overlap. Ravi Ponna would have been Red Carded if it happened in the current era. Most of the Kandy schools were famous for the now illegal block tackle those days. We still ask Ponna and Gunda to award that try to Royal in lighter vein”.

“In the second half we won a penalty in our 50, Muller kicked an up and under charged by the forwards. Byron collected it and was trying to clear when Kapila Peiris tackled him to drop the ball. We won our scrum put in showed and set up maul breaking away. The maul was pushed by the forwards sending Kapila over the line close to the up rights. Muller goaled it and it was 10-3.  Trinity also put over a penalty through Ravi Ponna. Frank Hubert was the Referee. Very tough and stern. Royal Forwards were famous for their tough and hard game. Hubert walked up to us before the game and said ‘This is your first warning and there is no second warning. If I see any offense you’ll be thrown out’. I never seen a referee giving such warning before a game starts. The referee only inspects the boot. Frank Hubert was a superb referee and hated unwarranted play. The Royal team was put on alert and was scared too of being thrown out. Touch Judges were Sujantha Kumar and Tikiri Ellepola the two past captains. We just had to score once, at least to tie the game as we were short by 06 points on the aggregate. On the dying stages of the game we were basically on the Trinity line. You can see the faces of Trinitians, defending but all worried as one score means Trinity will lose Bradby as we will retain it since holding the shield won in 80. We just had to score and convert and we were smelling the glory. If we did it, it would have been the 1st tie in the series. There was a scrum given on the 05 yard after an infringement and we were determined to push them over the line and score. Alas referee Franky blew the whistle. I personally felt we had about another minute or two on the clock but that’s how the game goes. We won it 10-3 but lost Bradby after four years”.

Sujeeva had this to say “We played a good game and won the 2nd leg but it was not enough to retain the Bradby which was with us for the previous three years. Ravi Banda took back the Bradby to Kandy, but we, the Royal team mates and the Trinitians still remain good friends. We are in regular touch and do meet up as and when we can”.

This is what Ravi had to say about the outcome of Bradby and season “Credit to Trinity for the resistance on the 02nd leg but it was our game. Thinking back now, man to man we were the better side. But as a team Trinity was superior. Their run and pass game always treat to watch but a nightmare to defend, whereas Royal plays with their forwards mauling and pushing and then distributing the ball. We had a fantastic three quarters too. Hiran Muttaiha and Sumitha Fonseka were brilliant with Hiran being the brain and Fonseka being the jinx man. Sujeewa was quick, as well as S.Y.Liu, both 100 meters sprinters for Royal. We scored approximately 34 Tries in the season. In that 27 tries were scored by threes, a statement on how our threes ran the ball. Tries were scored by S.Y Liu (08), Sujeewa (06), Sumitha Fonseka (06) and Sriyan (04). No 8 Naren scored 05 tries mostly from 5 meter scrum push overs”.

Down Memory Lane – Ravi’s priced souvenirs from 1981 Bradby encounters

“We ended season as Noel Gratiean Cup Champions and rewarded with a tour to Bangkok. From that team myself (CH & FC), Leon Fonseka (Dimbulla), Kapila Peiris (CH & fc, CR & FC and Police), Seevali Jayasinghe (CH & FC), Gopi Kandiaha (CH & FC), Sriyan Cooray (CR), Hiran Muttaiha (CR & FC), Sumithra Fonseka (CR & FC), Sujeewa Cooray (CR & FC) and Johaan Muller (CH & FC) represented Club Rugby. I captained CH & FC in 1987. While Leon captained Dimbulla in the B-Division season in the same year. Hiran, Sriyan and myself went on to represent Sri Lanka. Sujeewa was in the Sri lanka Under 25 squad to Taiwan. When I compare the sides we played along; 1981 was a very talented side with brilliant individual players who did their personal training including physical training too. ’79 another talented side under Raba but ’81 team had much more talent but we couldn’t retain the Bradby. Sujantha’s ’80 side another good side but difference was Sujan’s exceptional leadership skills. In fact he went onto lead the CH & FC in 1983 just two years after leaving Royal and CH became unbeaten A division league Champs. I was a member of that team Proping with N H Karunasena. That speaks volume about his skills. A dedicated player, gets the best out of his team and he was an additional flanker in defence though he is a scrum half. Very rarely see a scrum half who shadows the opposing line like a flanker. That ability of Sujan helped us in 1980 to win the Bradby”.

Soon after the season Sujeeva left College and joined CR & FC while Ravi joined CH & FC. Sujeeva shared briefly about his life after College “In fact my first experience of club rugby was at CR & FC. When I was a kid my father used to take me to the Summa Navaratnam’s kids rugby training at CR. I played for CR from 81 to 83 and then gave up after fracturing my ankle in 1983. I was a member of the Sri Lanka Colts (under 23) side which toured Taiwan in ’82. Meanwhile I joined John Keells in 1981 and I’m still there. I’ve worked in different sectors within the Group during the past 37 years. I got married in 1988 to Shyamala. We have two daughters, Onella and Raenella and a son Nischaal whom we unfortunately lost in 2016”.

About his learning from Rugby, Sujeeva had this to say “Something which I have learnt on the Rugby field is that 14 men help the 15th man score the try which is all about leadership and team work. Today we live in a very competitive and challenging world and my message to the youth is, what matters most are the relationships you build on the field and not the score on the board. It helps in your life, especially in the corporate world when you are building networks of friends. Today, all my good friends are not only Royalists, they come from Trinity, Isipathana, S. Thomas’, St. Joseph’s, St. Anthony’s, St. Peter’s, Dharmaraja, Kingswood and various other schools. Those who we fiercely fought against us on the field, be it rugby or cricket or competed on the track. But we left it there once the game was over and kept our friendships intact. After a game of rugby you should be able to talk about the 15 new friends you made and not the number of tries you scored”.

Ravi also shared his views on the same line “My view is winning is not everything. Yes, it is a wonderful feeling to win. The Bradby loss in ’81 taught us many lessons. Which helped us later in life. We realized friendship and relationships are greater than winning since that’s life long. Winning is only a memory in record.  We made lot of friends, Trinitians Ravi Ponna and Nihal Gunawardena are great friends of mine up to date. But what matters is memories you carry and friendship you build. That should be the way forward too.  We did not have the privilege of being sponsored with everything you need for the players like at present. I used a borrowed boots from Seevali Jayasinghe in ‘81 which he used during 1978 under 17 season. I borrowed my class mate and Hockey Vice Capt Sudarshan Saravanmuttu’s blazer during the season. Sometimes my Father’s black coat served the need. We had to pay for our Jersey’s which we still treasure. That is the souvenir to reflect the memory of the 81 Royal Rugby season”.

About Sujith Silva

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