New Zealand national Samoan born Tulagaese Tawita (Laga) had his hands full coaching Havelock Sports Club where they (club) finished second in the domestic league rugby tournament.
Laga is no stranger here, but unlike in past years he said he saw that the players’ lifestyles are sophisticated and the game has moved on in Sri Lanka. “A lot of money is paid to the players and the players look forward to a lot of things outside rugby. This is an era where everyone has an iphone. It’s important that a player who is serious about his rugby keeps his lifestyle pretty simple,” opined Laga.
Distractions aside, the park club players rallied together during a season where they were at zero when the season commenced. “We experienced a crisis when seven players made themselves unavailable due to the Under-20 Asian youth rugby tournament. We also had our share of injuries. We don’t have a strong bench like Kandy SC, CR & FC and Army SC, but the turning point came when the players understood where they stood compared to other teams. That’s the time when we got the best use of the available resources,” he said. According to the Havelock SC coach, players like skipper Sudarshan Muthuthantri, Janik Jayasuriya and Rahul de Silva made their contributions felt in handling the crisis that the club faced.
He had glowing praise for skipper Muthuthantri and said, “Muthu is not a big boy, but he plays above his weight. There is little to boast when performing well in Colombo and in front of your home crowd, what matters most is for a Colombo team to perform at Nittawela and that’s what Muthu did last Sunday,” he said. Laga added that Muthuthantri was an outstanding captain, but there is a lot of scope for him to improve as a player.
The Havies’ coach had a word of caution regarding the standard of refereeing and said, “The referees in Sri Lanka interpret the laws of the game very differently compared to how it’s done overseas. This sort of refereeing can have a negative impact on the players. Here the players are used to a form of refereeing, so when the players go abroad they don’t survive,” said a concerned Laga. He pointed out that coming from the sides during a ruck situation and playing the ball while it’s on the ground were two major flaws which Sri Lankan referees overlook.
He said that club authorities should seriously consider what clauses are included in player contracts because these contracts should serve the player and the club equally where benefits are considered. “Club rugby players are often taken away from domestic rugby for national duty. There is also the Mercantile Sevens. A player can get injured serving either one of three institutes. The responsibility of player welfare should spread equally because though the club owns the player, these employees (players) are also duty bound to represent the mercantile firms that employ them and also the nation,” said Laga who added, “After all a player’s ultimate goal should be to represent the country”.
He affirmed that missing out on the league trophy was disappointing, but said that he was confident that the club will win the knock-out tournament given that most of the injured players would have returned to the side.