Jaffna Kids Make Long Trek For Galle’s Rugby Showdown

7sThe distance between Point Pedro and Dondra Head isn’t too plentiful as it seems. The journey by St. Antony’s College rugby players, covering almost the entire length of the famous point’s to try their hand at rugby union in the SLSRFA conducted under 20 Division II sevens tournament, is a historic chapter in the country more so than a feel good story. The tournament will be held at the Rathgama Public grounds, Galle on March 17 and 18.

The school, founded in 1872 by Rev. FR. Boissean, caught the eye of the officials travelling from Colombo to conduct coaching camps in Jaffna. K. Kularathinam, one of the stalwarts in bringing rugby to Jaffna, who possesses a vested interest in the swift development of the oval ball game, says there were apparent signs that the school had the zeal to learn the ropes. "When we were about to do the camps at the Doreappa Stadium, we invited all the schools in Jaffna and outskirts. Some sent two, some five, but St. Antony’s sent twelve. It was clear that they had the enthusiasm. They have been training hard at Doreappa and I’m sure they’ll surprise some in the match-ups."

Kularathinam-known affectionately among the rugby circles as ‘Rajan’-who was the Jaffna District hockey captain in 1983- had worked with the SLRFU during the war and is a very optimistic inspector of Jaffna rugby. He especially thanked the efforts of Jaffna security Forces commander Major Gen. Mahinda Hathurusinghe, Lt. Col. Christie Jayasinghe and Lt. Col. Senaka Premawansa for the continuous support in these endeavors.

Well known names like Ellis Meachen, Ananda Kasthuriarachchi and Nihal ‘Viper’ Gunaratne had gone the distance to inject rugby to Jaffna and this initiative was a direct result of the project undertaken by SLRFU Rugby Development and Education Ministry. Director of Sports, Rohana Karunaratne, Project Director, Milroy Jayamanne, Educational Ministry secretary, H.M Gunasekara, SLRFU development co-chairman Nalin De Silva and schools coordinator K.S.P Karunaratne are the men behind the scenes of the project which was called ‘Rugby Ready.’

St. Antony’s will play in Group E which comprises Talduwa Buddhist School, Rahula College, Katugastota and Mahinda College, Galle. They left Jaffna on Thursday evening and rugby sources say a rousing reception has been arranged for the Jaffna lads by the tournament host. Arrangements had been made to host the rugby players from Jaffna for breakfast at Ihala Talduwa College, which the school’s principal H.M Priyadasa was also expected to attend. Meanwhile SLRFU has granted all the monetary needs to make the first long trip of the Jaffna boys a memorable one.

St.Antony’s is no stranger to school sports spectrum as they won the 400m relay bronze medal at the National Schools Athletics Championships recently and have emerged victorious in the all island Physical Training competitions in 2008 and 2011. St. Antonyprincipal Rec. K. James Singarayar said on the eve of the tournament players had been in good shape and he expects a healthy performance from the boys. "They have been in full training for the past few weeks and spirits are high. We are new to rugby, but in a short span of time have showed we are capable at it and that we are very ardent about it too. I feel these will hold us in a good stead and since this is our first outing we are planning to the raise the bar step by step. This year we are here to compete."

If they water the spirit and keep it away from drying out, it wouldn’t be that much of a long shot to envisage the probability of a schools rugby champion rising from the Jaffna peninsula in the not too distant future.

St. Antony’s College, Kayts sevens Squad:

Rednasingam Venutheepan, Kunaseelan Kunaraj, Jeyabalan Vinothkumar, Tharmarasa Jeyeraj, Jerad Jeyeseelan Dilaxsan, Thiruganasothi Kirushanth, Panneerselvan Sivatheepan, Tharmarasa Vithuraj, Kumar Nitharsan, Kirupananthan Anparasan, Alosius Princs Inoch, Lurthunayagam Joseph Thanusan, S. Pararajasekaram ( Teacher-in Charge ).

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