An examplarly ruggerite and Coach GAMINI FERNANDO | Daily News


An examplarly ruggerite and Coach GAMINI FERNANDO

The shock of hair that fell on his forehead and his supple gait defined this handsome ruggerite and coach of yesteryear. He was from the Red, Gold & Blue coloured school Trinity College. GAMINI FERNANDO did his school proud.

When it comes to schools rugby, Trinity have over the years done extremely well in this sport since taking to the game and also produced stars to clubs and country who have brought fame and fortune.

Names such as Denzil Kobbekauwa, Nimal Maralande, Mohan Sahayam, Frankie David, Glen Vanlangenberg, Shafi Jainudeen in my time covering rugby left their marks in the scrums and line outs and other spots of play.

Among the galaxy

Among this galaxy a name that jumps high like in a lineout is that of GAMINI FERNANDO one of the finest forwards to emerge from the rugby assembly lines at Trinity College in the late 1950s and then continue in the game for Havelocks and Sri Lanka in the 1960s who later turned a classy coach, referee and rugby administrator and President of the Park Club and SLRFU.

GAMA as he was affectionately known made rugby his pet sport. But he was no mean cricketer. He showed his prowess as a batsman in school scoring a memorable 61 against Zahira College which was studded with some elegant stroke play. But it was rugby that caught his fancy and while he was lost to cricket, rugby stood to gain and for which he has no regrets.

Great talent

At Trinity where he showed great talent initially he was fortunate to have as his team mates Denzil Kobbekaduwa, Ken de Joodt, M. Talwatte, A.R.M Azain, Eric Roles, P.A.Buultjens jnr. S. Janikram, Ken Murray, Jayantissa Ratwatte, T.P.Hermon, Jayantha Jayawardena, Silva, T.N.Chunchi, R.Madena, R.W. Madugalle and R.R. Samarakoon.

He was fortunate to play under two shrewd captain at Trinity in Ken de Joodt in 1958 and Denzil Kobbekaduwa in 1959 and watch and learn from their exemplary play that was always clever and aggressive and that more often than not ended in success.

When in 1956 under-17 rugby was introduced at Trinity he played for that team and the next as well. Continuing in the game and showing rare talent he had no problem in making it to the First XV as a second row forward. Rugby colours the dream of every sportsman came his way in 1959.

Good fortune

Then like most sportsmen do Colombo was his next port of call along with his buddy Y.C. Chang and threw in their rugby lot with Havelocks Sports Club. On his debut in club rugby, he had the good fortune of paying in the champion club team that won the Clifford Cup. He continued playing with great success. He was a tireless player and coach.

The late Sharm de Alwis once recalled: Gama would have aged ten years in his two year stint of coaching Havelocks which comprised a near Country side with Jeyer Rodriguesz, Gavin Stevens, Marco de Silva, Omar Sheriff, Hamzil Samad, Jeffery Yu, Anton Benedict, Jeffrey de Jong, P.L. Munasinghe, Michael Jayasekera, Thajone Savanghan and Royden de Silva.

Jeff would always play hookie; late nights at the club even after he had left on instructions, to re-emerge and sip his nectar in corners, ducking for cover. There, but for a wrong first letter in the word ‘ducking’ had been the story of their lives.

Spotted at the ‘Hut’

He would be spotted at the Hut with the manager phoning Gama to say, “Sir, your boys are here”. Gama would rush to the Hut and chase the miscreants away and, rumour has it, stay on to enrapture beauties with his Adonis face and frame and twinkling toes on the dance floor.

Gama played in an earlier era with Nimal Maralanda, Y.C. Chang, Maurice de Silva, Frankie David, Gogi Tillekaratne, Mark Sunderalingam, Jeff and Dan Rutnam, Jupana Jayawardena and Rajah Dias Sumanasekera.

That third row of Gogi, Mark and Gama stopped in their tracks many an advancing foe in club and international rugger.

Scintillating play

And Gama and Jeffrey, as flankers, were there to tackle opponents to a stand-still but what was remarkable in PL and Michael was the both, even though they were scintillating play makers and try scorers they would also tackle relentlessly. Sharm added in his piece.

FERNANDO sported Low Country colours and All Ceylon in the 1966 and 1967 All India tournament and also shone against the English Defence Services. But FERNANDO would have left his mark, but during his playing days visits by foreign teams were few and far between.

The hallmark of his rugby was that he played the game hard and clean in the spirit and saw to it that his team mates and charges when he took to coaching responded similarly. Rarely was he blown up for infringing the rules. He was a hard tackler and once he launched into a tackle rarely did a player get past him.

Expert coaching

FERNANDO’S expert coaching did not go unnoticed or unrecognized. On an invitation of then Police rugby captain Anton Benedict he took to coaching the Police which saw a big turn around and fortune in their play. He earned his rightful place as national coach in 1978 when Irwin Howie another former Trinity rugby stalwart was the captain of the national team.

His one disappointment was when he was debarred from playing for the country in 1969 in the All India Tournament on medical grounds, although it is said that the Rugby Union Doctor L.P.D. Gunewardena had passed him fit to play.

‘You can’t keep a good man down’ it is said and this saying rubbed off on FERNANDO when after being actively involved playing and coaching he took on the onerous job of blowing the whistle in school and club games and did a job to the entire satisfaction of all concerned. The first big club game he blew was the Clifford Cup final in 1975.

Life member

FERNANDO who was one time President of Havelocks is now a Life Member and Patron of the Club. A great honor for one who had served the club loyally and dedicatedly. In 1995/96 he reached the pinnacle of rugby administration when he became the President of the governing body the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union. [email protected]

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