Club rugby season kicks off today

Friday, 31 October 2014 00:06 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

After an extended break due to a change in the schedule, the club rugby season will kick off today. The ardent fans and the players are bound to be rejuvenated, recharged and rearing to go. The format for the current season has been changed in that all the teams will play each other twice on a home and away basis. Sadly, we have seen the demise of the Upcountry Lions this season and there short-lived foray into the big league has come to a shuddering halt. The rugby budgets of the clubs are increasing exponentially and it could be a reason for their demise. The other well-established clubs too are, to the best of my knowledge, struggling to retain players and it is no surprise to see a number of pole-vaulters in the club scene. As in local politics, gone are the days of party and club loyalty. Nowadays individuals clamour for the best deal for themselves, at times ignoring their jersey loyalties and principles. Maybe this is a part of the Asian miracle that we were hoping for, albeit the waving of a magic wand which has been in the news recently. The current weather conditions, resulting in soggy conditions underfoot, will not facilitate an open, expansive and fast game. Hence we will in all probability be subject to a forwards battle with hard grind in order to gain territory. Given that the teams are all rusty, from their lack of quality match practice, despite the few practice games, we are bound to see many mistakes in ball handling skills, not helped of course by the current fickle weather. Some of the teams that were at the bottom of the heap have been on a major recruitment drive and whether this will be money well spent is matter of conjecture at this stage. The teams that were at the top have had some reshuffling of players and it will be interesting to see how they fit into the new environment. Kandy has been regularly in the news in the build up to the season with updates on the quality and depth of their squad. CR and CH have been engaged in a game of swapping, with the former UCL players making sure that they got a place in these clubs. The Havies will celebrate their centenary year in 2015 and have had a change of guard at the top with mass scale changes in the committee as well. A similar situation is visible at CH, with them striving to get back to past glory days, with a passionate plea for funding. As of now it is too early to make any predictions on the top runners given the number of changes in players, coaching and administrative staff. With all the emphasis on the clubs and their players, we must also keep in mind the quality of the officials that control the game. We have not seen a marked improvement in their quality due to various reasons, which inter alia, includes interference and a lack of funding. Hopefully, this year we will see a greater emphasis on this aspect of the game with the referee, the assistant referees and the other match officials working in harmony for the benefit of the game. What is required most is consistency in the interpretation and application of the rules. At times, listening to the referees after the game we get the feeling that they did not perform to their potential due to fear of reprisal. As long as these inhibitions exist, the game will not progress as it should and we will still be looking at expatriate referees being flown in to officiate at crucial games. This obviously does not augur well for the referees in particular and the game in general. Thus the referees must work in harmony with all stakeholders to ensure that the correct decisions are made and any misgivings are ironed out sooner rather than later. (The writer can be reached via [email protected].)