Havelocks rekindles old art of winning
By Bernie Wijesekera
Havelocks SC one of the oldest rugby playing clubs in the local scene had produced some outstanding players at the national level for the country. Despite their tradition for the oval ball sport, the game failed to make much headway for reason best known to them. The Park Club has not won a major trophy since 1984 when they bagged the Clifford Cup under Sallay. In 1992 they lost to CH & FC the Premadasa trophy final 31-17. They have made vast strides with their re-development projects - with better facilities - including a covered stand for the fans and the membership to watch in comfort.

Despite talented players and even expatriates taking the scrum, still failed to make the desired effect. But the game took a turn last season in the tournaments organised by the Rugby Union. The Rugby committee was headed by President (former Sri Lanka star) Michael Jayasekera. There was a complete overhaul in the system, with a vision for the future.

Mild-mannered Ana Saranapala was entrusted with the coaching for the year 2003. He meant business, with the other members of the rugby committee - Peter Jayawardena - a man for all seasons and burly Chaminda Rupasinghe the trio mapped out a plan and worked in unison for Havies to climb the slippery rugby ladder. After their cliff-hanger win over CR & FC 23-21 in the Premier Trophy final which turned out to be a bone jarring contest. The Havies were leading 23-6. But when the going gets tough even the tough run away. But CR came back to make it 23-21 with three fantastic tries in eight minutes to make it a heart-throbbing contest.

'Ana' was interviewed by The Sunday Times. As a player, he captained Isipatana at fly-half and later the Havies. He was also a first class referee and a former national coach as well. He was hauled in when the chips were down. Did you coach them earlier? Yes. In 1992- '94. Rugby is my first love. Havies is my club where I have learnt much on and off the field. The general committee gave me all support. Then nothing is impossible.

What was your formula? The players had to adhere to a code of ethics.
There were no seniors and juniors. All have to abide by it. Discipline, devotion, dedication and self-belief in themselves. No excuses. In the end the Park Club showed consistency. The team under S. Hassan proved their mettle even to silence arm-chair critics.

What have you got to say about the two foreign players (Tongans) - Waka and Taka? The duo were part and parcel of the team. They had the flair to run, but the entire team kept the ball in motion. No selfish play or individual brilliance. The success of the team is what matters in the end. In life every man has twin obligations to his family, to his parents, to his wife and children. They have left them behind. These Tongans have come here to enjoy a better tomorrow, whilst playing for the Park Club. They displayed their skills by example. Its good for Sri Lanka and club rugby, he said, if more teams play competitive rugby for all to enjoy, more crowds will be there to support the sport.

On Tuesday (Oct. 7) both were felicitated and left for their homes in Tonga. They have promised to come back again. Are there young future prospects? Yes. They are prepared to learn. The club has nursed and nurtured them at grassroots level. But some of them have deserted the club. But still the club has survived . Among the wave of talented players Trinity's Saliya Kumara, the fullback, a fine place-kicker too. Thomian fly-half Wasim Thajudeen, Sadith Alwis and Hettiarachi. Imagine in the Premier trophy, sponsored by the Ministry of Sports - Havelock Town made a clean sweep. Besides Havies winning the 'plum' -Isipatana won the under -13, 15 and 19 finals.

Any comments about other schools? Wesley college have made a tremendous impact during the last schools season. They beat Royal for the first time. Its good for the future development of rugby. Wesley may have not won trophies but they have won the hearts of rugby fans, Ana said. Are you going to coach the team next season too? No, due to personal reasons. Let others continue the good work.

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