Saturday, 12 October 2002  
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Government - Gazette

Sunday Observer

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The Ceylon Rugby football union - 1926

The oval Ball by Y.C. Chang

Lesley Sirimanne, who is Scottish is a staunch supporter of rugby in Sri Lanka. She was very kind to part with some of her priceless collections preserved over the years. These were collected when her husband Srinath was alive and Chairman of the CH and FC from 1979/80.

One was a scrap book of the 1982 CH and FC team that I had coached to win the Clifford Cup. The CH won this cup after 20 years. The players who did yeoman service to my coaching were none other than N. H. Karunasena (Capt), Tiny Miskin, Ravi Wijenathan, Iqbal Hassan, Rahim Jainudeen, Subramanium Sritharan, Saman Jayasinghe, Patrick Ranasinghe, Nick Rivet, Sujantha Kumar, Haroon Musafer, W. Sumithipala, Chandrishan Perera, Mahes Pathirana, Ranjan De Silva, K. D. Nanayakkara, Shariz, Hafi Abdeen and Jan Tissera. This team was invincible.

These players and the illustrious ones of the Havelocks, CR, Police, Army, Navy and the Air Force were miles ahead of their counterparts of today's professional players. It is sad, but it is a fact. The articles contributed by journalists like T. M. K. Samat, T. B. Rahman, Vajira Goonewardena, Lal Gunesekera and Bernie Wijesekera, amplified the excitement and tenseness of that moment, giving the readers ample opportunity to make a bee line for that match and continue reading their accounts the next day.

The other well preserved document is that of the Hand Book of the Ceylon Rugby Union. What I have is the first print of 1926. The Union was headed by L. Mc D' Robison. Here is what the editor says, "At that request of a few rugger enthusiasts, we have ventured on the production of a Ceylon Rugby Football Hand Book for 1926, and feel confident that our effort to supply a want will be appreciated by all followers of the game in this Island. It has always been a matter of surprise to us that such a publication has never been regularly issued before, in view of the value of a brochure of this description.

The enthusiasm with which the sport is pursued should alone have warranted it. However we trust our attempt to give all lovers of game a Hand Book dealing exclusively with Rugby Football in Ceylon will be opportune and that the support given to this number will be such as to warrant a similar attempt on future occasions. We must thank all those sportsmen who readily gave their valuable cooperation to make this publication possible, and we take this opportunity of thanking them very much.... May the game flourish as it never did before is the fervent wish". The Editor... Colombo 05.06.1926.

Here are the minutes of inaugural meeting of the CRFU

"At the meeting called for the purpose of inaugurating a Ceylon Rugby Union at the GOH on Monday the August 1908, the following were present: M/s H. B. T. Boucher (Chairman Uva), A.E. Ogilvy (Uva), H. B. Bremner (Uva), F. C. Smith (Dimbulla) G. D. F. Sinclare (Dimbulla) H. V. Hill (KV) L. A. Wright (Dickoya), W. C. Lloyd (Dickoya), J. E. Biddell (Dickoya), D. A. Robertson (Dickoya) J. G. Cruickshank (Kandy), R. A. Gray (Colombo), Warden (Colombo).

The Chairman addressed the meeting pointing out the advantages in favour of forming a rugby union in Ceylon, and suggested that if the matter had the approval of the meeting and application would be made to the Rugby Union in England for affiliation. Mr. Buddell seconded - Carried unanimously. Mr. Lloyd then proposed that a committee be formed consisting of two gentlemen from each football district. Captains being members ex-officio.

The following committee was there upon elected:

Uva: H. B. T. Boucher, F. Doveton Boyd and A. E. Ogilvy.
Dickoya: J. D. Forbes, W. C. Lloyd and J. E. Biddell
Dimbulla: H. D. Macmillan, B. Healing and F. C. Smith.
Kandy: M. Johnston, H. Stevenson and J. G. Cruickshank.
Colombo : D. M. Hanna, R. A. Gray and a Warden.

It was proposed by the Chairman that Kandy be selected as the centre of the Union, and that Mr. J. G. Cruickshank be elected Hon. Secretary - Carried".

Readers will love this piece written by L. Mc D. Robison under the title "AN IMPRESSION". The mood reflects little or no difference to what is today.

"I have been asked by the editor to give some impression of the progress which rugger has, within my experience made in Ceylon. This is a rather difficult question to answer because there has been not only a distinct break in the playing of the game the war, but the balance of supremacy in District Football has, since 1920 passed from the planting districts to Colombo.

A writer who compares the present with the past is faced with the danger of over magnifying the prowess of by-gone days at the expense of that of present times. Since Adam was fifty years old there has always been the tendency to sigh for the good old days and football criticism is always in danger of this bias. But as I enjoyed playing last year every bit as much as in 1910, my bias will perhaps not be so prominent, even though I confess that, in my opinion the standard of rugger has not advanced during that period.

One's own experiences naturally colour one's criticism, but I do not know that had the standard of rugger in the different district been as high as it was in pre-war days. I, as full back would not have had the easy time I had. It may be that the CH and FC team is so much stronger now a days - in 1912 and 1913 it was sometimes difficult to raise fifteen able bodied men.

I often speculated whether the present Colombo crowd who serenely watched large scores being made could imagine a period when their predecessors were pleased if Colombo managed to run their opponents to few points and went wild with excitement whenever Colombo won. In my opinion no team now a days reaches the standard set by the Uva Team of 1914. The Dimbulla teams with Walford, Rolfe Rogers, Owen, D. A. Forbes, Finaly and Fitzgibbon and later with Smartt; the Kalutara side with Hodgson, Hasluck, Hadded and Ash; Kandy when A. H. S. and A. M. Clark, Carey and Reeves played and the CH and FC side of 1911 when Mackenzie, Blagrove and Wells assisted. I consider that the CH and FC side in 1921 with Pym, Griffith and Farquharson as good as any, but, owing to weakness in the opposition, the CH and FC in recent years have not had the opportunity of showing how good they might be if regularly called upon to give their best.

I do not think that this remark could be made about pre-war matches when teams had to go all out to win and when an all - round high standard of play, both of individual and of team, was maintained. To sum up, I consider that the general standard of rugger has not improved though individual players may reach a high level of excellence. The same criticism has been made about International football in, British Isles, and present day players may say that such criticism, as in this article is due to the jaundiced eye of the old stagers. The main thing, however, is that more men are playing the game and they may rightly retort "never mind the standard, the enjoyment of playing the games the thing".

Let us hope that the new season which opens so favourably will completely disprove what I have written".


HNB-Pathum Udanaya2002

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