Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa’s 27th death anniversary today | Daily News


Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa’s 27th death anniversary today

Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa was a great rugby player and administrator.
Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa was a great rugby player and administrator.

On 8 August 1992 (aged 52), the news came out like a bolt from the blues that Kandy’s Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa had died from a bomb blast. Today marks the 27th anniversary of his tragic death. Kandy’s sports lovers will never forget the late Lt. Gen. Kobbekaduwa, ruggerite and promoter of the game. He will be remembered by Kandy's sports-loving fraternity with a religious ceremony. Late Denzil was a colourful military officer and a fine rugby personality. After hanging up his boots he continued his contribution to rugby as a reputed referee, a knowledgeable coach and an able administrator.

Denzil began his schooling, first at Hillwood Girls College and later at Trinity College, where his sporting career started. His rugby started at Trinity College, Kandy, considered the cradle of rugby in the country. He was also a top-class hockey player. He won colours and the coveted Lion in rugby, along with P.A. Buultjens and E.D.K. Roles in 1959, and hockey colours together with L.U.B. Dissanayake, N.C. Molligoda and L.S. Perera. He was also an athlete, basketball player and a cricketer. At Trinity, he was also a school prefect of Lemuel House in 1960 and later appointed senior prefect the same year.

However, this appointment lasted only for a week since he opted to pursue a career with the Army. He gained admission to the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, but opted for a military career.

He first played rugger for the Trinity senior team in 1957 under Ken de Joodt, and paired off as scrum-half with fly-half Nimal Maralande.

The following year too it was Ken de Joodt who led the side. In 1959 it was Denzil's turn to captain the side which comprised M. Talwatte, A.R.M. Azain, E.D.K. Roles, P.A. Buultjens, 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, and R.R. Samarakoon.

It was in 1960 that Denzil began his illustrious career in the Army and went for training to England at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst for two years.

After completing his training he returned to the country and was a regular member of the Army rugger team, which he went on to captain later.

He played for the Army in the 1964/65 season. In 1966 he was unfortunately sent on compulsory leave and during that time he played for Havelock Sports Club. In 1967 he crossed over to the city where he learned the game and played for Kandy Sports Club.

Denzil’s 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 semi-finals and went down to CR and FC 6-12 in the final.

Those who played with him in that famous team of 1969 were Y.C. Chang, Mohan Balasuriya, Gavin Stevens, Rohan Abeyasundara, D. Makuloluwa, Deepal de Zoysa, Jadi Dissanayake, Gamini Udugama, Jayantissa Ratwattte, Lakshman Samaravijaya, Sam Samarasekara, Chang Faa Ching, George Jayasena, Shafie Jainudeen, Iswan Omar and Fredrick Prins.

The same year 1969, Denzil's greatest moment came in August when he played for Sri Lanka against Bosons in a two-test series. Denzil played a key role in containing the visitors by tackling his opposite number Nick Vosper to a standstill and hit it off smoothly with fly-half Omar Shariff. In October he toured Singapore with the Sri Lanka team. He also played for Defence Services and Up-Country in the Capper Cup.

In 1970 he was recalled to the Army and he continued his rugby. He created history by becoming the first secretary of the SLRFU while still playing the game. Denzil, as a player, referee, coach, and administrator, 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 and Clifford Cup finals.

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 service to the country more important than to rugby.

In 1967 and 1968 he coached his school and produced two champion teams which had players such as Ajith Abeyaratne, Ranjith "Gogi" Tillakaratne, Jupana Jayawardene, Iswan Omar, Shafie Jainudeen, S. Sundaralingam, Glen Vanlangenberg, P.M. Talwatte, Anura Madawella, Gotaba Dissanayake and Gamini Udugama.

Kandy SC’s new pavilion at Nittawella, was named as Lt. Gen. Denzil Kobbekaduwa. The Central Province RFU and Western Province RFU rugby game was played for a trophy in his memory. Later this trophy was contested for in the inter-club sevens. What has happened to the trophy and the tournament no one knows.

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