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DateLine Thursday, 18 October 2007

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Match Focus Review on 2007 by Ken de Joodt

Who is responsible for the standards of Sri Lanka rugby?

“What have you to say about the rugby standards in Sri Lanka, has it improved this year .. or what does it lack?” When this pertinent question was posed to some rugby fans, schoolboys and ladies, in a casual manner, their answers were equally ‘casual’! They were concerned but seemed baffled to respond with clarity.

Who is really responsible for the lowly standards in Sri Lanka - is it the players themselves, the coaches, the schools or the clubs or finally the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU)?

This question was ‘fired’ at random to ‘open-up’ the field, to get over the ‘advantage line’ and have a ‘feed-back’ to improve the good progress made by the main sponsors, like Caltex and Singer - who have supported the SLRFU with the required finances, etc. throughout the past years.

Some interesting, candid quotes and answers came forth but it was conditional - no names to be ‘tagged on’! Others took the right ‘options’ of ‘playing safe’ and protecting their ‘own territorial ground’ - (perhaps for personal reasons!), though it was solely based on their simple opinions and assumptions !

Right now, around the rugby throng, most of their assumptions could be influenced by the delightful rugby they currently witnesses on local TV channels. With fine-tuned transmissions of ‘top-class’ World Cup Rugby, from France, this has undoubtedly been a ‘special treat’ of rugby, the best that can be seen every four (4) years, whenever and wherever the “World Cup” is staged !!

Views and ‘spews’ were plentiful on the present scope of Sri Lanka rugby, reiterating that through a ‘critical path of analysis’, remedial action can be taken without further delays in implementing what is best for the game and the players.

Is the rugby season too far ‘drawn out’? Can it be better planned, appropriately ‘cut-down’ and concluded in a few months ? Constructing a viable plan with room for amendments, (like a ‘game-plan’ on the rugby field!), could perhaps eliminate or accommodate the unexpected demands made by different quarters of society or governmental orders. To suit the ‘whims and fancies’ of all and sundry should not be the aim!

It is a far greater objective, to help players to ‘get fully-prepared’ - re-building their fitness before the start of the season and concentrating on their ‘basic intensive training’ - which is of paramount importance - to the player and the game. There are no ‘short-cuts’ or ‘rushing through’ the basic essentials in training, to be ready to cope with the ‘physical and mental’ strains of a ‘lengthy’ season ahead.

One senior coach said that it also has to be taken into account the time and the strain to prepare for International tournaments and foreign fixtures. Selections for such high events have to be meticulously drawn from the best players in the country, from the clubs and schools. Then ‘slotting’ them into the right positions to make up a ‘probable’ Sri Lanka team, does take time and reviewing, in the course of the season.

Another matter of serious concern of the game, that was highlighted by many fans, was the grave need for more well-trained ‘quality’ referees. This should surely help the SLRFU administration in their ‘awesome’ task and ease the ‘pressure’ by having suitable referees to conduct more matches within a shorter time frame.

Of course, it is imperative that the training and selection of referees must be a ‘clean take’ - with the fundamental emphasis of every referee being chosen for their honesty, accountability and honourable attitude, at all times.

They carry a huge responsibility on their shoulders, (which some do not have, unfortunately!). To use good judgements, to communicate well with the players, giving clear direction and more importantly, to control them with a ‘fair and just’ whistle.

With the costs of entrance tickets being increased to all matches - (whether it be good or lacking in quality rugger) - a father of three school going children, unravelled his burden.

He said, with the ‘cost of living’ going higher than the goal-posts (!) he felt the strain on his purse to purchase four tickets to every match, he took them to! His children were ardent rugby followers - so more matches meant more money.

To ease the burdens of other examples like him, he wished the SLRFU and the sponsors would consider a “Family Season Ticket” or a concession for two persons and above. It would be an encouragement to let spectators know of such an offer, if ever considered !

“Let them in free” is another’s plea - for the ‘round matches’ in the league and knockouts plus the Seven-a-Side Tournaments. Those who have special enclosures for their members and guests could charge the ticket-rate, according to their demands.

Some others feel that the sponsors should introduce competitions at every match, enticing the public to come to the grounds, make their entries and win little prizes. It could be in the form of a memento or souvenir of the host club team or relating to some significance of the SLRFU year/season.

This idea sounds reasonable, as one of many improvisations that can be created to arouse the ‘sleeping giant’ of the rugby followers and bring the spectators to the grounds.

A young lady rugby fan with a ‘big heart’ observed that some players were ‘half-hearted’ in their approach to the game. She said some of the experienced, older players were not sufficiently dedicated and consistent in everything they do - up to the last blow of the whistle! She felt some ‘individuals’ were either ‘unfit, self-centred or a mere ‘show-off’ (with a false sense of pride!).

They were not competent and totally committed to ‘team-work’, which subsequently shows off in their performances on the field.

Why can’t the respective club coach or manager groom them correctly and help them to be self-disciplined, to blend with the team and carry out the vital instructions given by the captain or leader? This should be important criteria, for country representation and must be made known to those players who are in contention for selection.

From an elderly ruggerite came this comment, that club selectors and national rugby committees, should neither be restricted by any external or internal pressures nor ‘bow down’ to ‘power politics’!

They should not be ‘copy cats’ who indulge in acts of corruption or ‘mud-slinging’ or be misled by some dubious character, whose sole intention is to win glory and honour to himself! Instead, let it be with the right attitude to ‘lift up’ the standards of the game to higher levels - and give the victory to the wonderful name of ‘rugby’.

So the ‘end is near’ to another year of Sri Lankan rugby - with the ASIAD to be held from November 3, in Sri Lanka. It has been talked of by some, in the higher echelons of the rugby society, that a national pool of 37 players has been selected to represent the country.

Practice sessions for the Pool players commenced on September 27, giving them just over a month to practise together as a team. For some ‘good’ reason (05) five key players, selected to turn out for Sri Lanka, have taken off to France to attend the ‘Finals’ of the World Cup rugby, scheduled for Saturday, October 20.

Is this fair by the rest of the team, when time is so vital to bring the team together and get their ‘acts together’? Whoever permitted this should have considered the feelings and ‘longings’ of the other ‘Pool’ players to have equal opportunities.

It can be considered a ‘selfish’ act to give a few ‘favoured’ the ‘break in rule’ and enforce upon those who are left behind, to build up team work, motivation and a spirit of comradeship. Where are our priorities? One asked - “Is the end near?”.


Gamin Gamata - Presidential Community & Welfare Service
Ceylinco Banyan Villas

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