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Sunday, 14 August 2016

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What happened to Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa Tourney?

Sportsman, Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa was remembered by Kandy's sports loving fraternity, on his 24th death anniversary last Monday. Late Denzil was a top military officer and a fine rugby personality. He died 24 years ago in August, whilst commanding the security forces in the north when the vehicle he was travelling in went over a pressure mine. He was a gentleman on and off the rugby field during his playing days. After hanging up his boots he continued his contribution to rugby as a reputed referee, a knowledgeable coach and an able administrator.

Denzil as he was popularly known began his brilliant school career, first at Hillwood Girls College and later at Trinity College, Kandy, where his sporting talents bloomed. His rugby started at Trinity College Kandy which was known as the cradle of rugby in the country.

He was also a top class hockey player. At school he won colours and the coveted Lion in rugby, along with P.A. Buultjens and E.D.K. Roles in 1959. He also won hockey colours in the same year together with L.U.B. Disanayake, N.C. Molligoda and L.S. Perera., and was also an athelete, basketball player and a cricketer. He was also a School Prefect of Lemuel House in 1960 and later appointed Senior Prefect, in the same year. However this appointment lasted only a week since he opted to pursue a career with the Army.

Captained

In 1959 he captained Trinity College rugby team made up of M. Talwatte, A.R.M.Azain, E.D.K. Roles, P.A. Buultjens, and S. Janakiram. Ken Murray, Jayantissa Ratwatte, T.P. Hermon, Jayantha Jayawardene, S.C de Silva, Gamini Fernando, T. Haroon Chunchi, R. Madena, R.W. Madugalle, R.R. Samarakoon. When it came to the Bradby shield encounter, Royal won the first leg 5-0 at Bogambara Grounds refereed by Mahesh Rodrigo, but at the second leg at Longden Place, Trinity won 6-0 which game was refereed by V.S de Livera. He played for the Army in 1964/65. In 1966 he was unfortunately sent on compulsory leave and during that time he played for Havelock Sports Club. In 1967 he returned to Kandy to play for Kandy Sports Club. His finest year in rugby was in 1969, where under his leadership Kandy Sports Club rose to great heights and beat league champions Havelock Sports Club 11-8 in the Clifford Cup quarter-finals. They went on to beat CH and FC 3-0 in the semifinals and in the finals went down to CR and FC 6-12.

Once again in 1970 he was recalled to the Army and he continued his rugby. Then in 1971/72 when Army did not take part in rugby due to the insurgency, Denzil once again turned out for CR Bees. He created history by becoming the first secretary of the SLRFU while being in the game.

Denzil was a player, referee, coach, administrator and rendered invaluable service. He had the privilege of blowing the whistle in the first SLRFU President's Trophy and R. Premadasa Trophy finals in 1978 and 1984 and also the Bradby Shield and Clifford Cup finals.

Country

He was the 1974 Rugby Asiad SLRFU Secretary under the presidency of Summa Navaratnam. Later Denzil was offered the Vice Presidency of the SLRFU on several occasions in the 1980s which was the stepping stone to the SLRFU presidency. But he turned down the offers as he considered his military service to the country was more important than to rugby.

Sri Lanka's rugby king maker, Malik Samarawickrema, who put up the new pavilion at Nittawela, named it after his good friend Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekkduwa. Then came the rugby game between Central Province RFU and Western Province RFU for a trophy in his memory. Later this trophy was contested for in the inter club sevens. The query on eveyone's lips is, what happened to this trophy and the tournament?

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