|Wednesday, 8 January 2003|
Stick to Asia, says rugby star Paternott
by Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Former CH & FC and Sri Lanka rugby star Rodney Paternott said that Sri Lanka should concentrate on the Asiad and not try to pit their wits against countries outside that region.
Paternott who was in Sri Lanka on a business cum holiday visit was saddened to note the state to which Sri Lanka rugby has fallen today.
"We are physically not geared to take on countries like England, Australia, New Zealand etc. So there is no point in trying to match our limited physical skills against such countries and try to participate in the World Cup and so forth," said Paternott.
"We should try to be more pragmatic in our thinking and play against countries according to our physique. We will never beat countries like England, Australia or New Zealand or any other European country for that matter.
"Winning means you've got to have possession. You cannot win by defending all the time. Even the best of coaches will not be able to achieve a winning result unless you gain possession," said Paternott.
Paternott has been following Sri Lanka rugby closely although he is now domiciled in Melbourne, Australia for 19 years. He said that it was sad to note that money has taken precedence over prestige which has also contributed to Sri Lanka's dismal display at international tournaments.
"Due to this so called professionalism in certain clubs, the best team is not representing the country," noted Paternott.
Sri Lanka failed to field their best sides for the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and the Asiad due to key players making themselves unavailable for various reasons.
Paternott said the controlling body for the sport the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU) should have more control on the national players by offering them contracts like in cricket so that they are committed to serving their country first.
"Country comes first before anything else. That's how we were brought up. To play for one's country is a honour. I wonder how many of the present players feel that way," queried Paternott.
The 53-year-old Paternott was an outstanding sportsman from St. Peter's College, Bambalapitiya excelling at rugby, cricket and athletics. It was at rugby that Paternott went on to represent his country although cricket was not far behind.
He was one of the youngest to captain his school at rugby at the age of 17 in 1967 and in cricket the following year. He belongs to a select band of Peterites who had captained their school at both cricket and rugby.
Paternott played rugby for St. Peter's from 1964-67 and cricket from 1965-68. After one season with Havelocks, he joined CH&FC where he blossomed out as a rugby player of international repute going onto represent the country against the Australian Emus in 1971. He played for CH as a wing three-quarter from 1970-76, captaining in the final year and, later became their coach in 1980. He also coached S. Thomas' College, Mt Lavinia for three years from 1981.
Rodney Paternott and his brother Hamish, who also played for CH&FC in the early seventies made a formidable combination. Hamish's jinks and runs are still spoken of in rugby circles.
With cricket not being played the way it is today, Paternott's career in this sport was restricted to playing for CCC for one season in the first eleven team and subsequently in the division III side.
He was a member of the first CCC team to play in the division I Sara trophy tournament in 1970-71 captained by Dan Piachaud.
This team was unique in the sense that it comprised five former Peterite captains - Dr. H.I.K. Fernando (captain in 1950), Travis Fernando (1965), Darrel Wimalaratne (1966), Tony Opatha (1967) and Rodney Paternott (1968). Other members of that team were Abu Fuard, Kanthi Johnpillai, Kevin Perera, Brian Obeysekera, H.N. 'Porky' de Silva, and Tony Amith.
Paternott who excelled as a right-hand bat and right-arm medium-pace bowler was of the opinion that Sri Lankan cricket selections should follow the Australian style where the captain is picked from the chosen team.
"This style of picking leaves little room for club politics and favourites. There is no personal glory or pride in Australian team selections," said Paternott.
"If Australia had followed the Sri Lankan style of selection, Mark Waugh would still be playing for his country," he said.
Paternott is in business with his son Brian and was in Sri Lanka to set up exports of tea, spices and other commodities. His second son Keith is a storekeeper. He noticed the rapid changes the country had undergone since his last visit here six years ago.
"The people are more relaxed and move freely.
There are smiles on their faces and this has a lot to do with the ongoing peace process," said Paternott.
Produced by Lake House