A ruggerite of class & referee par excellence | Daily News



A ruggerite of class & referee par excellence

Isipathana truly took over school's rugby with a crash tackle in the '70s and remained a force feared and to be forgiven for their hard playing style. They have over the years produced some classy ruggerites who were examples and who could have held their own against any other outstanding ruggerite at club, national level or been even better.

Their rugby gem by a long distance was Hisham Abdeen. He has had no equal in his time because he was better than the best known. A class act to watch, the manner in which he fashioned and executed every move or ploy in the game.

And then came LEON DILROY FERNANDO, an outstanding ruggerite at Isipathana who played for the school from 1978 to 1982 and helped his school to emerge unofficial league champions in 1982 when they also won the rugby sevens title. He rose in stature as a referee par excellence. A legend by his own making.

Fernando’s captains

In 1978 FERNANDO played under M.P.F. Sally, ’79 under K.D.Naayakkara, ’80 under A.S.B. Bowela and ’81 under Leslie de Silva. He captained in 1982.

Before going on to detail his career a bit of his family history will make interesting reading. He had five brothers who were all sportsmen, with his father and two brothers Milroy and Suresh who all sported the Army uniform with distinction.

His father retired as a Full Colonel and another brother Sanjay who was a Squadron Leader in the Air Force. His other brothers were Sanjeewa and Aravinda. Aravinda captained isipathana at cricket.

Died in action

His eldest brother Milroy was a Major in the Army and sadly died in action in 1984 in the Omanthi Bomb explosion. Now the Royal-Isipathana game is contested for the Major Milroy Fernando trophy. A lasting memory for one who laid down his life for the country.

FERNANDO took to handling the oval ball as a junior from 1975 where he led the under-15 team, then moved on to captain the under-17 team. He played in the first team from 1978 to 1982 and captained in 1982. When he captained Isipathana was placed third in Asia. He also led the school to the Asian Schools Rugby championships in Bangkok in 1979 and 1980.

DILROY FERNANDO who played centre and also fly half and captained the school in his final year in 1982 and after a glittering school career he sported Havelocks colours in 1981 under Angelo Wickremaratne. In 1982 he was in the champion Havelocks side that won the Sevens then switched to playing in CR and FC colours from 1983 after leaving school.

Played as fly half

In that season FERNANDO played a full season as fly half for the Red Shirts in the league knockout sevens. CR were crowned the first winners of the R. Premadasa tournament in 1984. In 1986 he sported the Sri Lanka jersey in the Rugby Asiad in Fukoka, Japan in October 1984. He also played against Paris Universities.

He played in the CR team that won the Inter-Club Sevens and featured in the Singapore Sevens Milk Cup in 1984.

After his playing days were over not wanting to be lost to the game he took to blowing the whistle in 1989 and his first taste of blowing was in the under 20 Late Ziyan Saheed tournament and was a leading referee in Sri Lanka with International Rugby Board status. He was a referee much in demand for his clever and efficient blowing and refereed a record 21 Bradby Shield matches between Royal and Trinity from 1992 to 2013. This was a Trade Mark by itself.

IRB qualified referee

Fernando refereed in many international tournaments - Hong Kong Sevens, Dubai Sevens and Rugby Asiads. He was one of the few IRB qualified referees in Sri Lanka and at present is a Referee Educator. He has served as Match Commissioner and is now President of the Sri Lanka Rugby Referees Society.

Isipathana, during the days they ruled the schools rugby firmament produced players of great class who graduated from school, to club and then the national team. There were several, but the names that come to mind are Abdeen, the Savangam Brothers Juraghan and Thajone, Hafi Abdeen, Rajakaruna, Sena Bowela and Nalin de Silva. Isipathana had some wonderful coaches in O.W.R. Perera, Kamal Jayewardene, Hazari and Tony Amit, a Japanese Yasudo and P.F. Sally.

Glittering career

As a referee he was known for his fairness and ability to let the game run on exercising the rules of advantage

While all those who dare and take to officiating like umpires, referees and adjudicators come in for criticism. In some sense it's a thankless job. It requires a thick skin as long as one has the confidence of sound judgement.

But FERNANDO when he defied and dared to blow did so aware of the brickbats more than roses that awaited him. He did his job to the best of his ability without fear or favour and it must be said that like most other referees do earning criticism, he had the least amount or no critics at all.

Secretary under Ekanayake

FERNANDO has also helped the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union in a big way. He was Secretary under Priyantha Ekanayake and later took over as CEO of SLRFU under Ekanayake and Nimal Lewke. He was the architect who started the Isipatana Rugby Management Committee for the first time in school rugby. Along with O.W.R. Perera the legendary Isipathana rugby coach from 1978 to ’88 and along with the able secretary of the Isipathana College Rugby Committee Hasan Singhawansa, FERNANDO and Singhawansa combined together to support Isipathana rugby with sponsorships and development from 1988 to 2004.

The FERNANDO-Singhawansa duo with the blessings of the SLRFU, the Schools Rugby Association and IRB organized the first ever Schools International Rugby Sevens in Sri Lanka in 2002 when Isipathana celebrated 50 years. This tournament proved a great success.

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