Notable rugby players of the past : Denzil, Trinity’s Senior Prefect for only a week | Sunday Observer

Notable rugby players of the past : Denzil, Trinity’s Senior Prefect for only a week

Lt. Gen. DenzilKobbekduwa was one of the finest rugby players produced from Kandy. He led Kandy Sports Club in 1969 Clifford Cup final after 14 years. Born in Kandy on July 27, 1940 to LokuBandara and Lorna Ratwatte Kobbekaduwa as their second child, Denzil had his early education at Hillwood Girls College, Kandy which is the sister School of Trinity College. In 1948 he joined Trinity College, where he excelled in education and sports.

During Denzil’s time Trinity was known as the cradle of rugby, he as a top class scrum-half first played for Trinity in 1957 under the leadership of Ken de Joodt. He also played cricket, basketball and did athletics.

He captained the rugger team in 1959 and was awarded the Lion, the highest award given to any sport at Trinity. In 1959 Denzil led the school, and had some of the top most ruggerites of the era playing with him. He was also the vice-captain of the hockey team in 1959 and was a coloursman.

Denzil was also a School Prefect, and later became the Senior Prefect. This appointment was only for a week, since he opted to pursue a career with the Ceylon Army and was enlisted as an Officer Cadet and posted to Diyathalawa for training, before leaving for a two year officer training program at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the United Kingdom. These circumstances prevented him from qualifying for the coveted Ryde Gold Medal for the best all-round student of Trinity College.

In 1960 he began his illustrious career in the Sri Lanka Army and went for training to UK for two years. Having successfully completed his training he returned to the country. From 1963 he was a regular member of the Sri Lanka Army rugger team which he went on to lead later. He was unfortunately sent on compulsory leave in 1966, in which year he turned out for Havelock SC before returning to his home town in 1967. He donned the Kandy SC white jersey for the first time in 1967 under Y.C.Chang and in 1970 after three games he went back to the Army. Denzil’s greatest moment was in August 1969, when he played in both Test matches against the Bosuns. In October 1969 Denzil toured Singapore with the Sri Lanka team.

His finest year in rugby was in 1969. Under his leadership Kandy Sports Club rose to great heights and beat league champions Havelock SC by 11-8 in the Clifford Cup quarter finals, and in the semifinals beat CH & FC 3-0 and in the cup final, went down fighting to CR & FC 6-12.

From 1966 to 1969 he coached his alma mater Trinity College and produced two champion teams with the help of another colourful sports personality Percy Madugalle.

After being promoted as Brigadier in the Army, Denzilserved the nation with dedication at crucial times and notably his efforts were successful and fruitful. President J.R. Jayewardene took him to Pakistan for the SAARC in Islamabad, as a member of the President’s tour party. On his return he left for London to follow a course at the Royal College of Defense.

From 1970 to 1972 Denzil played for the Army. In 1972 he played for the Army while serving as the Secretary of the SLRFU then known as CRFU - a unique achievement indeed. Then in the early 1970s when the Army pulled out of rugby due to the insurgency, Denzil turned out for CR & FC ‘Bees’. He rendered an invaluable service to rugger as Secretary of the controlling body, from 1972 to 1974.

He was also one of the country’s leading Referees and officiated from 1974 to 1985, and was also one-time Manager of the Sri Lanka team, at the ASIAD in 1978.

In memory of him the Kandy Club house was named as Lt. Gen. DenzilKobbekaduwa and a Memorial Trophy too was donated to be presented to the winner of the match between Central Province RFU and Western Province RFU. Later this Trophy was used for the inter Club Rugby Sevens.

Denzil Kobbekaduwa is no more, but his memory will remain forever in the hearts of all those who knew him. Denzil will not be forgotten by the rugby lovers of the country.