There is no proper rugby management. That is the reason for the chaos reigning in rugby circles. There was a very disciplined lot during our time to administer the game. Dr.Willie Ratnavale, William Molegoda, Summa Navaratnam and S.B. Pilapitiya were some of them. That line has come to an end now. There are no capable people to continue.
This view was expressed by S. Sivendran, Retired Senior Superintendent of Police and former Police rugby skipper during an interview with the Sunday Times.
Siva also attributed the poor turn out of rugby referees to the fact that clubs do not recommend their top players to officiate at games, like in the old days.
It must be recalled that Police under the leadership of Sivendran stormed into the Clifford Cup final defeating CR led by Mohammed Azain 9-6 in the semi-final. Ultimately they met their Waterloo at the hands of the Havelocks in the final (11-6) in 1967 at Longdon Place.
“Those were the days of place kicker Bagoos Sourjah. This amazing man booted the Police team to a 9-6 win over the CR which had players in the caliber of Eric Roles, Mohan Sahayam, Sari de Sylva, Niranjan Perera, Tony Sirimanne etc to name just a few.”
Havelocks had studied Police’s game plan to the letter and brought in Trinity skipper Glen Vanlangenberg to the match against the Police. Their third row had virtually pulverized the Police line, including place kicker Bagoos Sourjah. Havelocks skipper Gamini Fernando was prominent in attack and defense. Police lost the game 6-11. The match was refereed by Bertie Dias. During the latter part of the game the huge crowd who had witnessed the Cup final had started booing Bertie Dias calling him… ‘Dirty Bertie’.
Sivendran had captained the Police rugby team for several years and had even been instrumental in getting wonder winger M.A. Majeed of Zahira to join the Force after an initial recruitment drive had left out Majeed saying that he was too short. It is history now that Majeed went on to captain Police in 1868 and was an automatic choice for the Sri Lanka team to play against England led by Budge Rogers where Majeed scored the only try against the Englishmen!
Tracing Siva’s rugby roots is history in itself. Siva was an athlete at St. Peter’s in 1948 excelling in the 100 and 200 meters at the under 11 level. He recalls that even Alan Ponnambalam was in the senior Peterite team and represented St. Peter’s in the Junior Relay team. In the process he had been attracted to rugby and very soon was playing alongside Ralph Gauder, Desmond Ephraums and Brian de Silva.
Siva’s father, however, had been worried that his son is getting more and more involved in sports and had packed him off to Jaffna to continue his studies. There he had concentrated on what he was told to do and achieved his life long ambition to join the Police Force.
Siva recalls that it was Superintendent and Assistant Director of Police Training Fred H. Brohier who had taken him under his wing. Brohier, an old Royalist and a top athlete at that had coached the Police rugby team until 1960. Fred had been a member of the Havelocks rugby team as well.
Then came the time when Sydney De Zoysa took over the Police rugby team. At that time Police had been playing in an affiliated clubs competition featuring Police, Army, Navy and the Universities. They were not permitted to play in the Clifford Cup competition in spite of having recognized players such as ‘Brute’ Mahendran, Franklyn Jacob, S.S. Bambaradeniya, Rodney Aluwihare and Trinity’s boxing great Mike Schokman, James Senaratne, Sumith Silva, Rahula Silva and Raja Pathirana in the team. The Peterite contribution to Police rugby at that time had come from Letcho Ephramus, Terry Williams, Muni Gomez and Siva himself.
Then came the moment that Police had been waiting for. In 1961 affiliated clubs were permitted to play against Constituent Clubs: Kandy SC, Dimbula, Dickoy, Kelani Valley, Uva, CR&FC, CH&FC and the Havelocks. That year Police led by Franklyn Jacobs stunned the local rugby scene by holding the famed CH side to a 3-3 draw. CH bristled with players such as Keith Anderson, Peter Swady, John Burrows, John Banks and Mike Wilson.
Sydney De Zoysa knowing Police’s potential in rugby had worked very hard behind the scenes specially after the 1962 failed coup started by senior Army and Police officers to promote the game. For starters Police were not given transport for training and matches. Police officers were even willing to use their own warrants to buy their ticket to play rugby.Siva recalled an instance when Brute Mahendran captained the team they had organized a lorry to take the Police team to Kandy to play a game there. “The lorry was packed with mattresses and the players rested on them. This trend however got better after Eardly McHeyzer became Secretary of the Ceylon Rugby Football Union,” recalled Siva.
Siva was first appointed Police rugby skipper in 1963.Hard work and dedication saw him building up the team and in 1964 Rodney Aluwihare captained the side followed by Muni Gomez in 1965. In the following years (1966 and 1967) Sivendran led the team and he was greatly assisted by the great place kicking of Bagoos Sourjah and a dedicated lot of players where the rock hard Linton shone as a flanker.
Sivendran pulled out his bulging scrap book and showed his paper cuttings where the names of sports scribes Eustace Rulach, TMK Samat, Austin Daniels and MB Marjan stood out prominently recording Police’s trail blazing successes.
Siva hung up his boots in 1970, but rugby within him did not die. He was transferred to Jaffna where he coached the Jaffna Police team to win the Layards Cup at the All Island Inter-Police rugby competition and with it the Kavan Rambukwella Cup as well.In 1973 he came back to Colombo where a crucial rugby meeting was held giving all clubs one vote each and affiliated clubs were abolished.
He has a word of gratitude to Police officer Rudra Rajasingham who had done a great deal for Police rugby and the game in general. He also holds the services of Dr. K.B. Sangakkara of Kandy to rugby in great esteem.
Siva was also in the Referees Society and had ‘blown’ with greats such as Malcolm Wright, John Burrows, Miles Christoffelsz, Ashley Cader, Mahesh Rodrigo, Denzil Kobbekaduwa, Gamini Fernando and C.S. Fernando. Siva had even attended a Rugby Referees Congress in London during 1978 where he had witnessed the England-Argentina game.
In 1975 Siva had even conducted a Police rugby coaching camp at Police Park in 1975 under the instructions of IGP Stanley Senanayake and his wife Maya Senanayake. Siva recalls that Crofton Joseph and Nizam Jamaldeen had been in that camp as youngsters. Siva married to Ananthalakshmi now resides in Matha Road, Manning Town, Colombo 8. His three daughters Renuka, Sharmila and Shashikala, all old girls of St. Bridget’s Convent, live in the USA and are highly qualified in their chosen fields.
As a parting shot Siva says that he gets a lot of satisfaction in taking a look at the Police Grounds at the Depot Police today and that he had put in a great effort to bring it up to its present position specially as he was the Director of Police Sports as well.