The way forward

Friday, 3 June 2011 00:33 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Whilst we were all engrossed in last week’s Bradby game, the Joes and the Petes battled it out for the Fr. Basil Wiratunga trophy. Incidentally, whilst the quality of the refereeing was of a high quality at the Bradby, the same cannot be said of the Joe-Pete game.

A red card was handed down to the Joes prop forward in a case of mistaken identity, with the referee admitting after the match that he had indeed made a mistake. Nowadays the game is controlled in the middle by the referee whilst there is assistance by way of two assistant referees.

Not having witnessed the game myself I cannot comment on the role played by the assistant referees in this instance, but we must move into a situation whereby the correct decision is made. If this involves the use of technology, so be it.

Cricket has come a long way with the use of technology and we must move forward in the field of rugby to ensure that we are not left behind.

The recent game between Sri Lanka and the UAE was again another example where the assistant referee insisted that the try was not scored cleanly by the Lankans. Words cannot express the anguish of those present as they willed their team to win against a much heavier pack.

A local referee pointed out the fact that the condition of the grounds was poor as the same had been let out for the World Cup cricket matches to be witnessed on the giant screen. He was adamant that if the line markings had been done properly Sri Lanka would have scored.

This then means that Sri Lanka would not have been relegated from the Asian 5 Nations. Having known in advance that the grounds was to host a major international game; the club authorities should have made sure that the conditions were good enough to host such an event.

This weekend sees the start of the Caltex A Division club rugby games. There are a number of things to look forward to this season. We will hopefully see the introduction of several expatriate players into the sides that are in the bottom half of the standings based on last year’s results.

There are different schools of thought on the introduction of expatriate players. I am of the view that this is a step in the right direction. If we are required to play against them at international level, let’s learn to play with/against them at national level. The skill that they will impart on the local players could be immense.

Our scrummaging needs to improve by leaps and bounds as evidenced in the recent games, as well as our ability to stop the rolling maul legitimately. The mobility of our forwards must improve, if we are to make a fist of it in the future. Being second best at all times is not good enough – we must aspire to be the bride in the near future.

Very often we see players tending to collapse the maul illegally and thereby giving away penalties at crucial times with disastrous effects. We must learn to snuff the effects of such moves and be alert on the repercussions that these have on the team as a whole.

The need to recycle the ball and keep the ball in play via many phases is the need of the hour. A review of the style of play of both the Northern hemisphere and Southern hemisphere teams teach us the importance of having many continuous phases of good ball prior to the launch of the final assault of scoring.

On the schools front, we are into the eighth week and will see Trinity take on Issipathana in Pallekale whilst giant killers Science will take on Dharmaraja at Bogambra, and Royal will take on St. Anthony’s at Nittawela. Thus, for the second week running, the place to be will be the hill capital of Kandy.

The Peterites should have it easy against the Thomians at Bamba, whilst the Joes will lock horns with Thurstan. Trinity will have their work cut out against a tough Pathana side and one must sympathise with the Trinitians on their schedule.

They played the Peterites on 20 May, the Bradby on 28 May, will take on Pathana on 4 June and need to be fighting fit for the return of the Bradby on 11 June. Whether the young lads can take such punishment over extended periods of time is debatable.

In scheduling such games, the authorities must ensure that there is a nice mix of matches so that we are fair by the players as well as the rugby doting public. The attendance at the school games are definitely better than at most club games and a majority of those who attend the school games believe that the quality of rugby dished out is of far better quality than the club games.

This brings us to another aspect of club rugby in that is there too much cash at certain clubs whilst in other instances the coffers are dry. At school level there is no cash involved and hence the schoolboys take immense pride in wearing the school jersey… whilst at clubs, gone are the days of players being faithful to clubs. A little bit of extra cash and certain players are willing to switch their allegiance. Can we blame the players? No sir, we cannot. After all that is their only income.

When we come to the national players, they still have to obtain permission from their employers to leave early/arrive late for/from practices. In the recent Asian Five Nations championship this issue was the cause of certain players being left out.

For our national rugby team to progress further, we need a central contract system with adequate cash in the kitty so as to enable the best players to be retained. A point in question is, how many of the talented school boy ruggerites who made waves whilst at school are now in the club circuit? The fingers on my hand would most probably suffice. It’s a shame, given the number of quality school sides that take part in the league.