When Havelock Sports Club skipper Dushmantha Priyadarshana was a kid, he found great pleasure in running after a football. The neighbourhood he lives in has a craze for football. The presence of the club Bodhiyawatte Rantharu, close to home, had a great influence on him. Like with most other kids, the environment decided which sport Dushmantha should try his luck at. But there was something missing despite Dushmantha making a mark in football. He probably needed to dabble in a sport which could challenge him more and leave him mentally and physically exhausted.

His instincts told him to try rugby union. Soon he enrolled at Peterson Sports Club. Even at that time he was big and burly and surprisingly tried his luck at playing as centre and wing three quarter. He caught the eye of team officials at the Wellawatte club for a feature that is still associated with him, great speed. Like all players destined for glory, Dushmantha made great progress in rugby union.

Like a white water lily spotted even in the mud, Dushmantha’s presence in this less affluent club was noticed by an official of Havelock Sports Club. This incident happened in the most unexpected manner. “I was representing Peterson SC in a provincial rugby tournament and we met Havelock SC in the finals. Havelock SC eventually won the match and the tournament, but the good thing that happened to me was that Thushitha Peiris of Havelock SC invited me to join his club,” is how Dushmantha recalled one of the most memorable moments in his rugby career.

Dushmantha Priyadharshana  (pics by Sassanda Liyanarachchi)
Dushmantha Priyadharshana |(pics by Sassanda Liyanarachchi)

His life changed as if night turning to day. He found permanent employment, married his sweetheart, raised a family and established himself as a sportsman, all because of taking to rugby. “Rugby totally changed my life,” he said.

He joined the park club in 2008 and was even in the starting line-up for his first division one game which was against Kandy SC. He still has bitter memories of losing 103-0 to Kandy SC. “That day I decided that someday I will see that Havelock SC thrashes Kandy SC. My dream was realized in 2012 when Havies beat Kandy with us scoring over 50 points in the process,” he recalled.

Despite Dushmantha making a smooth transition from the soccer ground to the rugby field, his parents watched in anxiety. They even came to him and told him to be careful when he got himself injured in the rugby field. However, Dushmantha said that he would not have come this far in rugby if not for the blessings of his parents.

He said that the folk in his village-Bodhiyawatte in Kalubowila- are very proud of him. He also went on to represent Sri Lanka at rugby. “I am the first person in Bodhiyawatte to have represented Sri Lanka in any sport,” he said with a tinge of pride.

This season Dushmantha and his team will miss the services of ace centre Dhanushka Ranjan and prop Danuka Dissanayake who have crossed over to Kandy SC. He said he was optimistic this season that Havies can win the domestic league rugby tournament under coach Ronnie Ibrahim. “The boys are united and there is a lot of support for us from the club. We train daily from 5.30 to 7.30 pm and even after practices conclude, we hang around talking rugby for about another one and a half hours before we go home,” he said.

He  sees the crowds at rugby matches growing slowly. “Rugby must be taken to the provinces and made more popular,” he opined.

Dushmantha is a people’s man and said that he made it a point to stop and spend time with any spectator who wishes to analyze a game of rugby with him. “After all, spectators come to see us play,” he said.

Despite the swift rise to fame, Dushmantha has remained an unchanged individual. He is still available for the folks of his village in Bodhiyawatte. Despite establishing himself in the sport of rugby, the 29-year-old still keeps the ends warm with Bodhiyawatte Rantharu and turns out for them at soccer matches. It’s encouraging to see sportsman who don’t forget their past!