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DateLine Sunday, 3 June 2007

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Rugby in a total mess!

RUGBY: Sri Lanka's rugby is in 'Intensive Care' and needs urgent intravenous injections and a good physician, was the candid opinion of former Royal, CR & FC and Sri Lanka forward, Dr. Maiya Gunasekera, who is a former President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU).

Dr. Gunasekera, a Consultant Surgeon, said that as a past President of the governing body, he will accept defeat by a small margin, but not massive defeats that Sri Lanka suffered at the hands of both Arabian Gulf and Kazakhstan recently at the two Asian Cup games. He said: "Now we have come lower down in the rankings in Asia. We got hammered and I wonder what will happen if we are down to play Singapore or even Thailand?"

He said that it was a "total mess up" and if the national team could get their act together and perform well, there will be plenty of sponsors to help the sport.

Dr. Gunasekera further said that they have got a good man in the calibre of Anton Benedict to head the Selection Committee and that his health will have to be looked after well.

According to information he had received, the opposition strength was not sized up and there was no game plan in the two matches against Arabian Gulf and Kazakhstan and that the three-quarters had not tackled their opposite numbers due to the local season that started soon after these two games. They were scared of getting injured.

Dr. Gunasekera was also of the opinion that foreigners are not needed to play for clubs. He said; "We had a time that they were needed, but not now. But we could make use of them for 7's tournaments if the requirements are met.

No commitment

There is no commitment by the players to play for the country. Their commitment is to play for clubs because of the money involved. It's all professionalism now and the authorities should be able to pay the national players well, was the observation made by Ana Saranapala, a former national coach, who turned out for Isipathana, Havelocks and Sri Lanka too.

A successful coach, Saranapala, said that one of the reasons for the deterioration of the standards is the non-availability of a Development Squad from where quality could be picked to represent Sri Lanka. He said that this Development Squad should play regular games with the Sri Lanka 'A' side, which never happens as there is no Development Squad.

Saranapala further said that there is no quality players like Harris Omar, Priyantha Ekanayake, Norman Silva, Hisham Abdeen, Asoka Jayasena, Harin Perera, Dharmapala, Indrajith Bandaranayake, Imthi Marikkar, Nazim Mohamed and others who played their hearts out, were committed and played together like a team.

He said that China has improved tremendously, while Sri Lanka's standards have deteriorated. Players are more concerned about local tournaments and are worried about getting injured was another opinion of Saranapala, who went on to say that one could never stop players from joining other clubs and that the SLRFU must amend their constitution and have a system where player contracts are concerned as is happening in soccer in England and Europe.

Gone to the dogs....

The standard of rugby in the country has "gone to the dogs". There seems to be a fight in almost every game and clubs that have her facilities in school premises, must refrain from selling alcoholic beverages to youngsters, said Ranjith Abeydeera, a former Wesley, Air Force, Havelocks and CR & FC forward of repute.

The sleek three-quarter movements of yesteryear are not seen or heard of now, even at club games. It's all a forwards battle and no finesse. There are no big made players and hardly any thrills and its all about the survival of the fittest by weight, said Abeydeera.

"There is no spectator interest as in the "good old days", and having foreigners playing for clubs is good and more should be invited to teach our players what rugby is all about", said Abeydeera.

Drastic changes have to be made in our structure and for this, persons with vision and commitment should be brought in, said Abeydeera.

Players pampered

Our players are pampered too much. There is no sense of pride in playing for the country now. Players are only interested in material gain-money, perks etc. Their first priority seems to be money and this seems to be the reason why they change clubs regularly. This was the opinion of former Police and Sri Lanka stalwart and "ace" place-kicker Nizam Hajireen.

The remedy seems to be the malady and it would be a good idea to have an Advisory Committee comprising rugby celebrities for the SLRFU President to consult and get advice on various issues that crop up.

Hajireen also commented about the lack of a Development Squad and proposes to have two in age groups (under-16 and under-20) in every province to identify potential national players and train them in all aspects of the game.

He also said that youngsters with heights and strength must be groomed for both forwards and back-division. He said "However, skilful one might be, and if you do not have the physique, strength and speed, we shall always be slaughtered like what happened in the games with the Arabian Gulf and Kazakhstan recently".

"There is no magic formulas for success and no short-term plans. A development programme must be put in place and should be structured and phased out to achieve results. Foreign coaches need to know the mentality of local players and needs at least six to seven months," added Hajireen.

 

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