Should Thilaka Jinadasa carry on till Netball World Cup 2019?

Thursday, 13 September 2018 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Minister of Sports Faiszer Musthapha with the Sri Lankan Netball Team and officials


By Hishan Welmilla

The Sri Lankan Netball Team was crowned as the new Asian champions when they won the 11th Asian Netball Championship beating Singapore by 69-50 goals. With the new championship crown recorded after nine years, the interest of Sri Lanka’s most diversified sport received higher appreciation and many praised the achievement of Thilaka Jinadasa, the team’s Coach.

It’s a coincidence that Jinadasa happened to be the National Coach when Sri Lanka won the championship last in 2009, again after seven years since winning the crown in 2001 in Colombo.

A double National who represented Sri Lanka in the Women’s 110m Hurdles at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and in Netball, Jinadasa was awarded the role of Sri Lankan Coach for the Asian Championship 2018.

Now she faces the same fate she faced in 2009 – the question whether the administrators will have faith in her to take the responsibility till the next Netball World Cup to be held in Liverpool, England in 2019. 

Even when she was appointed as the National Coach for Asian Championship 2018, a protest was made by two other applicants, Hyacinth Wijesinghe and Somitha De Alwis, after the interviews were done but the inquiry panel headed by Milton Amarasinghe found that the interview process for the netball coach selections was done correctly.

It was so heartbreaking when Jinadasa had to step down soon after clinching the Asian Netball title in 2009 and ended up in Brunei. She spent nine years nurturing and guiding the Brunei Netballers to become a winning outfit and bringing them in the Asian rankings.

When asked Jinadasa whether the Sri Lankan Netball authorities requested her to carry on till the 2019 World Cup, she said that there had been no such request yet. “They have not said yes or no,” Thilaka said. 

“I had a mission to accomplish, that is winning the Asian Championship which I have achieved with the people who believed me,” she added.

According to the President of the Netball Federation of Sri Lanka, Trixie Nanayakkara, Jinadasa’s coaching assignment will end on 15 January 2019.

Nanayakkara was in the administration as the Secretary while Ajantha Wijesekara seated in the top post as the President (from 2008 August to 2010 May) when Sri Lanka won the Asian Championship 2009 (held from 19-28 June) under Jinadasa’s guidance. But certain unforeseen obstacles and losing the secretariat post deprived her making Jinadasa the National Coach to continue till the World Cup 2011 held in Singapore.

The new administration led by Leisha de Silva Chandrasena (President) and Damayanthi Jayathilaka (Secretary) selected Hyacinth Wijesinghe to take Sri Lanka to the World Cup.

A similar situation has arisen this time around as in 2009 with Nanayakkara in the administration of Netball Federation of Sri Lanka now with more power as the President.

“We are discussing the matter of the national coaching assignment at the moment for the next World Cup. Now we have to look into the requirement of the country, not anything else. As administrators we have to follow certain administrative rules in appointing the coaches,” Nanayakkara explained.

According to the rules, after the contract of a coach is over, they should call for interviews and appoint a new coach. Since Jinadasa’s contract will be over on 15 January 2019, there is hardly any time for a new coach to take over and face the Netball World Cup as the event gets underway from 12-21 July 2019 and there will be only six months left after Jinadasa’s assignment is concluded.

The majority of the Sri Lankan sports loving public and the netball fraternity would believe Jinadasa should be the ideal choice to take Sri Lanka to World Cup 2019. Many believe she has proven herself by bringing the Asian Championship and regaining lost pride. She has turned the Sri Lankan outfit into a winning combination within a period of seven months.

“A national coach should a full-time coach and also look into all aspects of the team. Discipline is in the first place. Strength and fitness, skills development, nutrition, attending to players’ injuries and all other important areas should be looked in by the coach. Thilaka is one such coach I have met in my career and also on many oversees team assignments as the team doctor,” said Dr. Seevali Jayawickrama, Director General, Sri Lanka Anti-Doping Agency (SLADA), who was the team doctor of the Sri Lankan team when Jinadasa was Head Coach during the Asian Championship 2009. 

Minister of Sports Faiszer Musthapha and the sports administrators have a major role to play in appointing the head coach of the National Netball Team for the Netball World Cup. The netball fraternity would believe they will not repeat the same mistake. 

The Minister has already hailed Jinadasa’s work and was also present in person to welcome the Sri Lankan Team when they landed in the early hours of Tuesday.

Whatever the outcome, the future of netball should not put at stake at any cost. Finally, there is a school of thought – “you should not change a winning combination”.