Ravi Wijenathan a top class ruggerite and academic | Daily News


Ravi Wijenathan a top class ruggerite and academic

Ravi Wijenathan
Ravi Wijenathan

Sri Lanka has produced several yesteryear players in all sports including rugby, with the support of the schools, which played a key role in unearthing some highly skilled players, who played for the love and passion of the game. One of the schools in the forefront was Royal College, Colombo, which contributed immensely not only in the sports arena but also in the field of Education. Ravi Wijenathan was one of the top class academics and a Rugby player who played a pivotal role at school, club and International levels.

Ravi Wijenathan popularly known as ‘Python’ in rugby circles commenced his academic career at Royal from the junior to senior level. His father who was a leading lawyer later retired being a Magistrate and was one of the finest products of Trinity and Jaffna College,. Ravi had three brothers and a sister in his family, where all three boys were engaged in sports. His father was instrumental in motivating Ravi to take up rugby at school, He was a compatriot of S.B.Pilapitiya, Bobby Shanmugam, Frank Sirimanne, P.Naguselwaran(his first cousin) few to be named, who donned the Trinity jersey at the Bradby Shield.

Ravi stepped into the rugby arena in 1974/5 joining the famous ‘Summa Navaratnam’s junior’ rugby classes at CR and FC grounds, which was opened to all schools. Some of the others who attended that school in that era were retired Major General Sathyapriya Liyanage and late Fassy Doray while. Leon Fonseka and Micheal Wickremaratne( now known as Rev Dishan) who also attended these classes played with Ravi in the Royal College first XV front row position in 1981.

He started his college career from 1978 representing the under-17 team. Gradually he matured into the senior rugby team from 1979 to 1981. They won the Bradby Shield in 1979 under the captaincy of late Raba Gunasekera. They continued their winning streak by winning the ‘Bradby’ and ‘Guneratne Trophy’ in 1980 under Sujantha Kumar. Next year they won the schools A Division league and the ‘Guneratne Trophy’ under Sujeeva Cooray. His Club rugby started when he was a school boy in 1980 playing sevens with the CR ‘B’ team before the school season while playing for CH “Kabs”. Summa Navaratnam, his coach and mentor was instrumental in turning him as the best player in his school career.

His stepping stone in the Clubs ‘A’ division rugby was in 1981 under Baratha Hegoda, soon after the schools season. He enjoyed his club career with some famous players like Saman Jayasinghe, Hafi Abdeen(coach cum player in 1983), late N.H.Karunasena, S.Sridaran, Rahim Junaideen, Haroon Musafer, Sujantha Kumar, Chandrishan Perera, Rohan Abeykoon, Roshan Perera and Imran Sallay, Ranjan Kanagasabai, Priyantha Ekanayake, Anil Dassanayake, Ajward Shariz and Patrick Ranasinghe. He was a gifted prop forward who could play on sides in the pack, where he also played as lock forward, when there was a need. He would like to attribute his success to his club coaches Rodney Patternot, Y.C. Chang, Hafi Abdeen and Tony Amit.

He was a member of the winning team in 1982 league champs/runner up in the knockout tournament. In1983 the unbeaten League Champions. In 1985 and 86 R.Premadasa Trophy Champions. The Triple Crown champs in 1988 and 1990. In 1987 Ravi captained the CH and FC. He would like to recall his memory of winning the ‘Hatya International sevens in Thailand in 1985 with the club side.

He was called for National duty in 1983 pool and remained a member until 1986 under the watchful eyes of Jeff Ratnam, Ajith Abeyratne as coaches. He represented the National team against the Westminster Rugby Football Club and went on to play against the Paris University in 1984. He toured with the National team to Taiwan in 1986.

He got into rugby administration in 1990 as a rugby convener with Hassan Sinhawansa as the secretary at CH and FC. Later he served as a member of the inaugural Western Province Rugby Football Union under Sumith Silva. From 1990 to 1994 CH won the triple crown which was considered as the Golden Era of Rugby with Kishin Butani providing the leadership. He also

had success in coaching his school under-17 team and an Army service corps, which won several tournaments. Then he was invited to serve as a National Selector in 1999/00 under Tikiri Marambe. He further served in the same capacity in 2004 under the same chairmanship while holding the same position in 2007/8 under Anton Benedict. Some of the achievements as a selector was in 1999 when Sri Lanka coached by Nimal Lewke led by Asoka Jayasena which won seven matches in a row including two tests against Northern Territories, equal number of tests against China, four nations Championship comprising Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, when most of the senior players from Kandy SC and CR and FC opted to stay out of the pool. In 2001 the under-19 team led by Jeevan Gunathilake became number three in the Asiad in Colombo and played in the World Cup qualifier in Chile coached by Ananda Kasturiarachchi and M.D.Ifthikar. At present he serves as a visiting lecturer at University of Colombo in faculty of Finance and Management while being a business consultant.

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