The Sri Lanka School’s Rugby Football Association (SLSRFA) Secretary Denzil Darling says that schoolboys are far too aggressive these days and the school’s rugby governing body has plans to conduct a survey and find out why.
The SLSRFA secretary made these comments to Nation following several incidents where schoolboy rugby players have found it hard to control their emotions and behaved in an appalling manner this season. The worst incident was reported in Kandy when the St. Joseph’s College First XV rugby team was severely assaulted by Dharmaraja College rugby players and a section of the crowd while the match was in progress.
However, despite the gloom, Darling sees school rugby on the rise and said, “Overall, the skills of all players have improved tremendously. This is possibly due to a professional rugby setup that exists in most of the top division teams.”
Darling acknowledged the fact that as a sports association, the SLSRFA has its hands full, largely because school rugby is the most popular spectator sport in the island. Most of the Division 1 teams are spending big money on rugby, and Darling said the SLSRFA’s role in ‘rugby big show’ is to ensure the tournaments are conducted with the least problems.
There is this lovely side to rugby where the spectators are coming in large numbers, the gate generating huge income and rugby played being so entertaining that it gets live streaming in a sports website. “But there is another far less glamorous side to this rugby show where some teams, contesting the Division 11 and 111 tournaments, find hard to field 24 players for a match or raise the monies needed to survive the season. This is why the SLSRFA has appointed a rugby development committee which will look into the shortcomings at other rugby playing institutions,” Darling said. This rugby development committee is headed by the Warden of S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia Mark Billimoria.
He said that this season the SLSRFA had introduced a system where the host team had to ensure, through a letter, that it will guarantee the security of spectators, referees, players and match officials at the venue. According to Darling, this system was in operation from the second round of the league rugby tournament. This rugby official from Uva recalled the good old days when the visiting teams stayed overnight at the host school, ate the food that was lovingly prepared for them and even shared the oranges or lemons that were given to players at half-time. “Now most teams have moved away from that culture and stay in hotels. They don’t even drink the water that most host teams give them,” is how Darling explained the dark side of professionalism in rugby which has distanced rugby teams.
Despite the league rugby tournament this season being a success, he said that there was cause for concern over one matter and that was dope testing being absent. However, random dope testing was conducted last season. Darling cited heavy costs needed to fund such tests as the possible reason for the checks for doping not being carried out this season. He said that the doping tests were conducted by the Ministry of Sports last season.
Darling said that school rugby enjoyed a feature which any sponsor would love; the unpredictability of the result at matches. “Gone are the days when one thinks that fancied schools will have it easy. See how teams like S. Thomas’ and Zahira have made a mark this season,” he said.
The SLSRFA secretary, however, said that he was not in favour of the presence of police at match venues all the time. “The Police is there to ensure peace in society, but when the law enforcement officers are present in large numbers, it gives the impression that peace has been threatened. All stakeholders of the game must get together and create an environment where rugby can be played without police protection,” he said.