YC the forgotten unsung rugby heavyweight | Sunday Observer

YC the forgotten unsung rugby heavyweight

YC Chang
YC Chang

Remember that familiar burly figure of YC Chang and the contribution that he made to Sri Lanka rugby. What he did should be written in letters of Gold. YC as he was popularly known was one of the finest rugby players to emerge after coming up to the hill capital Kandy where he cut his game into shape.

YC began his early schooling at Carey College, Colombo and later crossed over to Trinity College, where he learnt the rudiments of rugby although he did not play for the senior side. Rugby was his pet sport and he was also keen to become a doctor of medicine, but fate made him to take up planting as a career. He believes that unlike in the past the game has improved tremendously in recent times.

At Trinity he excelled at junior level, but it was at the Havelock Sports Club that he first played premier rugby which helped him to polish his game.

He later crossed over from the Park Club to the hills to take up planting which made him join Kandy SC in 1964.

Playing with the British planters developed his skills and YC ended up as the first choice player in the front row of the national side representing the country from 1964 to 1971. However, he never got the opportunity of leading the country till he went back to Colombo. Leaving Kandy after his planting career he joined CH and FC in 1972 and that year he got the much needed break to lead the country at the Asiad in Hong Kong. Then again he was tipped to lead the country at the first ever Asiad on Sri Lanka soil in 1974, but was deprived of doing so. It was the result of him while captaining CH and FC in a match against Police taking the team off the field before the final whistle due to a dispute over a referee’s decision. That decision cost him the captaincy. YC was one of the country’s finest players who later became a coach, referee and administrator. Under his SLRFU presidency he was the man who found sponsorships for the development of clubs and the game and also made the move to conduct the Clifford Cup Knock-Out tournament in Kandy.

As the head of rugby he gave of his best and had some top former players with him in the Committee like Dushy Samarasekera, Malik Samarawickrema, Gamini Fernando, Lionel Almeida and Kishin Butani who were live-wire promoters.

YC perhaps devoted more time to rugby and strove to achieve the highest level through sheer hard work and dedication, before hanging up his boots in 1974. He could have continued in the game for more years but was thoroughly disappointed over the unfair treatment he received.

During his playing days he weighed 165 pounds and was a robust fearless forward. He always led from the front and rugby lovers flocked to see him. His arch rival on the field was Maurice Marrinon and both were tough nuts to crack.

YC represented the All Ceylon Barbarians at the age of 18, while playing for Havelocks from 1961 to 1963. He was a member of the Clifford Cup winning team which beat Dickoya MCC in the final with a penalty in the last minute. Havelocks were led by the late Dr. Hubert Aloysius.

In Kandy he gave his fullest backing and started his career at Nittawela from1964 and went on till 1972. He led the side in 1967 and continued in the following year too. He was one of the live-wires of the 1969 team with Denzil Kobbekaduwa. In 1970 Kobbekaduwa left and rejoined the Army and once again YC was called in to captain.

YC has represented the country in the All India tournament from 1963 to 1969 and was a member of the first ever team which took part in the Asiad in 1970 under CR and FC’s Nizar Hadji Omar. That year Sri Lanka entered the semi-finals. Some of his team mates were Mike de Alwis, Sari de Silva, Dr. Tony de Silva, Ajith Abeyratne, Jeff Ratnam, Keith Paul, Indrajith Coomaraswamy and Tony Sirimane to name a few. In 1972 he got the opportunity of leading the country at the Asiad. He was also a top class coach who coached the CH and FC team in 1982 when NH Karunasena led the side and helped them to win the Clifford Cup while in 1983 CH and FC remained unbeaten.

Under his presidency, he implemented a familiarization and training scheme for the National pool and helped the Sri Lanka team to tour more countries. Before this it was only the Asiad and a few teams that came to Sri Lanka.

It was under YC that the first Sri Lanka under-20 team played in the fifth Pan-Pacific championship in Taiwan and an under 25-team took part in the Inter Collegiate tournament in the same country. There was another tour to Wales and South East Asia. Coaches and referees were given breaks in the Cathay-Pacific Sevens in Hong Kong. YC is certainly a legend.