Palitha-the cager and rugby star | Daily News


Palitha-the cager and rugby star

Palitha Siriwardana
Palitha Siriwardana

The Sri Lanka Police has produced several yesteryear sportsmen who excelled in their profession and sports. Palitha Siriwardana who recently hung up his uniform, after serving four decades in the Police was one of the rare talents, which this country has ever produced. Being a double International in Basketball and Rugby, he was instrumental in establishing several records, which still remain unbroken.

Palitha Siriwardanas father was a former Policeman, Lionel Fredrick Siriwardana, who did yeoman service in the Police department for over three decades. Popularly known as “Chuti Malli”, Palitha and his elder brother Vikum Siriwardana were top Basketball players.

Since his father was in the Police service they were residing at the Field Force Headquarters, in Bambalapitiya. In this era there were several other personalities who excelled in sports, residing with them like Hafeel Marso, S. Chandrapalan, Tuan Hajireen, Ranjith Moderagama, Mohamed Majeed.

This influenced them to play games as small kids in the Police Park grounds. The initial foundation for Basketball was laid after 1970, when there was an under-10 Basketball tournament held among the schools. Police officers R.M.P. Ranawana and T.N. Ahamath spotted these kid’s

performance and formed a side to play in that tournament, in which Palitha was appointed captain. They went on to win the tournament convincingly . From there this squad went on to defeat some top teams in the fray like St. Benedict’s, St.Peter’s, St.Joseph’s and St.Michael’s, Batticaloa. As Royal College didn’t have a junior Basketball team, he opted to engage himself in athletics and went on performing from the Junior level to senior level, establishing several records in High Jump and Hurdles respectively, which was a unique achievement. The school authorities noticing these kids talent went on to introduce Basketball to the college at junior level, with the likes of Premith Pasqual, Rohantha Peiris, Rajiva Wijetunga, Saman Bandara, Sanath Mahipala. This effort by the school authorities enabled them to produce champion sides under Palitha, where he climbed up to the inder-19 stage to win several championships, remaining as an unbeaten side, which remained a record for some time in the country, where Royal were crowned champions. While being captain in1977, he toured Kuwait with the youth National Basketball team and was also selected as the youth school’s player to represent the national team at Asian Basketball Championship in Kuala Lumpur under Malsiri Perera’s captaincy, followed by the national team to India in 1978.

In 1979, he joined the Police department as a Sub Inspector when he was a mere 19 year old school boy. In1979/80/81 he represented the Police team only in Basketball. His fortunes changed in 1982 when SSP Sumith Silva who was in charge of Police Rugby advised him to take up the game since his structure and build was ideal to play rugby . On the request of his senior officer, Palitha played in the inter division rugby tournament in 1982. Unearthing his talents, he was chosen to play for the Police ‘Griffins’ side in the ‘B’ division. His friend Marso, who was an experienced player, suggested him to play as a wing forward.

He played until mid1983, for the Griffins side. But due to the two nippy Police flankers at that era, Dharmakeerthi and Muruga Jayaratne, he never had an opportunity to play in that position. But later in an Army versus Police match Dahrmakeerthi got injured and Palitha was called to occupy that place, and he went on to secure that position until he hung up his boots, after his 10 year career.

He was a member of the champion Clifford Cup teams in 1984 1985 and 1991. Winners of John Player League from 1985 to 1989 and again in 1991. Winners of R.Premadasa Trophy in 1987 and 1989. In 1986 he represented the national team at Cathay Pacific bowl competition. In 1987 tour of Wales, Sydeny World Cup Sevens in Australia, Dubai Sevens in Dubai, in 1988, Italy Sevens in 1989, the tour of Hong Kong and Taiwan in 1989 are a few to be mentioned.

In 1992 he was to captain the Police rugby team as well as the Sri Lanka National Basketball. team but his DIG A.S.Seneviratne who was his boss asked him to choose his future career whether to continue with his first appointment as OIC or to continue his sports, where he opted to give his job priority.

In 1985 he was called for national duty as a wing forward for the Hong Kong and Taiwan tour under Rohan Gunaratne He went on to establish several records both in Basketball as well as Rugby during his tenure as captain. He captained the Police Basketball team twice and won the National Championship in the 1988/89 season. He was a livewire of the National Basketball team which toured overseas on several occasions bringing honour to the country.

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