Dulaj Perera (Pics by Mushtaq Thasleem)

Rugby player Dulaj Perera believes that Sri Lanka’s speed can’t be matched when the national team plays in the Asian circuit. Dulaj, during an interview with Nation, spoke fondly of the memories the team brought back from Hong Kong where the islanders finished as runners-up in the Cup Championship of the 2016 Asian Rugby Sevens Series, (First Leg).

The Sri Lankans dazzled spectators at the stands as they overcame an early setback in losing to Hong Kong, but came back strongly in the knockout stages of the tournament. “We are a vastly improved and much- feared rugby team in Asia now,” said Perera who played the role of vice captain of the side.

He said the players were physically in good shape, but found it tough when it came to body contact, especially against an opposition like Hong Kong. “We are doing a lot of work in the gymnasium daily and train as a team in the evenings,” is how Dulaj responded when asked to describe the day of a serious rugby player.

However, he feels that Sri Lanka is not yet there as a professional rugby team. “The transformation is slowly happening and the SLRFU is doing all what’s needed to get us there. May be this transformation will definitely happen either now or when the next generation of rugby players takes over,” said Dulaj quite enthusiastically.

Dulaj is a God-fearing man. He said that the players prayed before they took to the field in every match when contesting the first leg of the Asian Sevens Series. He said that the other factor which helped the team perform so well was the unity among players. “We didn’t have all the time that a team would have loved to have to be together during preparations. We play for different clubs. Players need to be in a camp for a long time and train together to develop that sense for player understanding. The most important thing was that we all shared the same goal, which was to do really well in this Asian Rugby Sevens Series,” he said.

As much as he cherishes the attachment he has with God, there is another person whom he speaks fondly of for contributing immensely to shape his life. “My father has been my biggest supporter and critic and has stood by me during my entire rugby career. I can remember when my dad was in the sales profession, he used to drive all the way from far-off places to see me play, even if he could only see me in action for a few minutes,” he said. For the record his father, Richard Perera is a pastor.

When not playing rugby he plays for a band called Magic Box Mix-up. His love for music is immense and he has sung many songs which have thrilled fans and loved ones alike. “Music is something where I have big plans for the future. I might perhaps play rugby for a few more years the most, but I can continue with music till I die,” said Dulaj who is also pursuing a course in marketing.

He took this opportunity to talk fondly of Havelock Sports Club, the club he represents during the domestic season. The park club helped him when he needed to perform an operation to correct a torn ligament in the knee. Right now he is back in rugby after getting his other knee operated. As much as rugby has given him memories to cherish, it has also left scars in his body which he will carry for the rest of his life as souvenirs.
He is an avid traveller. When asked what he hoped to do after he retires from rugby, Dulaj had this to say, “I like to join the Airline industry.” People will have little to doubt about the success of his future endeavours. He has already found a winning formula which has made him a star in rugby and a much loved artiste in the field of music.