A Legend who stood tall in the firmament of netball was none other than Cynthia Rasquinho who passed away last month.

Hailing from a great sporting family, her brother Percy – L. P. Ernst, was the first to captain a Sri Lankan, at that time called Ceylonese, Davis Cup tennis team way back in 1953.And Cynthia and her sisters, Heather and Lorraine, were sporting stalwarts in their own way.

Cynthia Rasquinho was synonymous with netball. She was an incredible netball player, coach, referee, club pioneer, administrator, national selector and a whole lot more besides.

Tennis and athletics

Although netball was Cynthia’s forte, she also shone in tennis and athletics.

Having completed her schooling at Methodist College, Kollupitiya, Cynthia proceeded to Saidapet in Madras and qualified as a Physical Training instructress. Returning to Sri Lanka, she embarked on her coaching career, which was to take her to great heights. Her coaching career began at her alma mater, Methodist College, where she taught not only netball but also athletics. She then added St Bridget’s Convent to her coaching portfolio. CYNTHIA took both these schools several times to All- Island level where they won the championships.

Coaching prowess

However, what has been left out in the columns and magazines written about CYNTHIA after she passed on, was that there was another school to which she took her coaching prowess. And that school was Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena. It was under her tutelage that Good Shepherd Convent, for the first time in history reached the pinnacle of netball _ All Island level.

How can one forget the names of these former Shepherdians – Logie Satchithanandam, Anne Edirisinghe, Thomazine Salvador, Thilaka Appiah, Anne Thaleyratne and Lourdes de Alwis.

They were all products of Cynthia Rasquinho’s coaching and they all represented Sri Lanka in netball. Other players of repute at Good Shepherd Convent were Anandam Appiah, Indrani Musafer, Rosemary Gerreyn, Fareeda Dole, Renee and Daphne Adams and Teckla de Alwis (all names are the maiden names of players).

Among the girls who shone at the time - that is the 1950s and 1960s - at St Bridget’s Convent were Gillian Ranasinghe, Rajes Nadarajah, Rohini Almeida, Ashra Samad, Tony Joseph, Mignonne Ratnam, Roshan Ara de Soyza and Angela Rodrigo. At Methodist College there was Mignonne Fernando, Lorna and Nobel Kiel, and of course Cynthia’s sisters, Heather and Lorraine Ernst.

In 1963 Logie Satchithanandan had the proud distinction of being the first Shepherdian in the team that travelled to Eastbourne in England for the first World Netball Championships.

The highest peak

Although Methodist College and St Bridget’s Convent reached the highest peak of schools’ netball, Good Shepherd Convent was not so fortunate. They were crowned Western Province Champions and had qualified to play in the All Island Competition, where all provincial winners vie for the top prize, but due to the assassination of the then Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in 1958, the tournament was postponed and eventually cancelled.

It was around this time that Cynthia Rasquinho felt the urge to start a netball club so that her students would not leave the game altogether after they left school. Along with Marian Ohlums, and with Dodwell de Costa as patron, Cynthia established the Shamrocks Netball Club. The only other netball club prevalent at the time was Colombo Netball Club which was started by Nora Pate. As a natural progression from schools netball, most of Cynthia’s students joined Shamrocks.

Cynthia herself designed the outfit that the girls wore. Until that time most netballers wore divided skirts and tops. But Shamrocks pioneered a new outfit. It was a white tunic – unheard of at that time – with a green band across the bottom which culminated in a green Shamrock just above the hem. The girls were so proud of that uniform.

Dominate club netball

Unsurprisingly Shamrocks began to dominate club netball after that. Shamrocks was the envy of all netballers and the club was able to have more than one team participate in tournaments.

From there for Cynthia it was a matter of going from strength to strength.

In 1956 Cynthia captained the All Ceylon Netball Team when they played against Australia.

Cynthia did not however stop there. She was one of the most energetic referees and she worked night and day in promoting the game. She had also been elected President of the Western Province Netball Association and of the Netball Federation of Ceylon.

In the 1960s when Sri Lanka was training to send a team to the World Cup, Cynthia had many Shamrocks players in the squad. Lack of finance put paid to the team going to the United Kingdom but to compensate for this the team was sent to Singapore and played a series of three matches against the Singapore National Team. Sri Lanka won all three games and annexed the Donald Windsor Trophy.

Among those in that team were captain Anne Edirisinghe, Thomazine Salvadore, Thilaka Appiah and Francista Segarajasingham.

Role model for netball

Cynthia Rasquinho is a role model for netballers. In her psyche is that fighting spirit which never lets her give up however hard things are stacked against her. Many times she and her team snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

As a person Cynthia was loved by all. In after years she always made it a point to check on the welfare of her students and team mates. Her love for them extended far beyond the netball court. She took great interest in their families. Even when some of them returned to Colombo from overseas where they were domiciled, Cynthia made it a point to meet up with them and organise get togethers.

The love of Cynthia’s life, Tilbert her husband, predeceased her about 10 years ago. She leaves her children twins, Romany and Rozanne, and Michelle and Kevin and their families.

A much loved legend, Cynthia Rasquinho, May You Rest In Peace.

The information on Cynthia was provided to me by my dear friend and former colleague Tilaka Appiah in 'The Times of Ceylon' and 'Daily Mirror' in the 1970s who also played netball for Ceylon.

Add new comment