Gemunu Chetiya: Wonder boy who lifted Joes rugby | Sunday Observer

Gemunu Chetiya: Wonder boy who lifted Joes rugby

Gemunu Chetiya
Gemunu Chetiya

He was the one player that all the rival teams feared and perhaps the one player who brought a whole team together and raised the morale of a school, St. Joseph’s College, that had an identity in rugby but struggled to get their act together for many years.

He is none other than Gemunu Chetiya, undoubtedly a prized catch for the Joes during the concluded inter-school season where he scored 12 very crucial tries and almost took his team to the League and Knock-Out titles that eluded them by inches.

There was no doubt that all eyes were focussed on Chetiya more than any other player and the fast running winger did not disappoint anyone with only the supporters of rival teams to frown on his God-given talents which came full circle when he left his old school Lalith Athulathmudali College in downtown Ratmalana and enlisted at St. Joseph’s College.

Today Chetiya will be representing his country for the fourth time when he takes wing with the Sri Lanka Under-20 team to contest the Asian Rugby Sevens in Hong Kong next week. Chetiya may have many people to thank for his success, but who or what comes first will be his doting mother who encouraged and guided him until the very last and St. Joseph’s College that brought out the player in him.

“I was very happy to get a call-up from St. Joseph’s College after I had just finished my Ordinary Level exam at Athulathmudali College and my mother who was always behind me gave her blessings so I can do my Advanced Level exam and continue to play rugby”, Chetiya told the Sunday Observer in an interview.

At St. Joseph’s College Chetiya came under the watchful eyes of the school’s Rugby Development Committee and neither they nor Chetiya looked back.

Almost every time he had the ball in his hands a try looked certain and at least four clubs got into a scrum to enlist Chetiya who has now decided to enroll at the elite CR and FC club.

Chetiya was 17 years when he won his Sri Lanka junior jersey to play at an Asian Sevens tournament in Taipei and later the Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas.

Chetiya spoke of a very tough concluded season and would like to forget the results of two matches, one against Royal College in the League and the other against St. Peter’s College in the Knock-Out final.

The Joes lost both games and Chetiya will be the first to admit they had their chances.

“I think the Royal team was very hard to beat. All their players were very good and against St. Peter’s we made some bad mistakes and they outplayed us in the second half. But we learnt a lot from it”, Chetiya recalled.

Interestingly Chetiya is no stranger to the Joes. His elder brother Vimukthi Rahula, a scrum-half, also played for St. Joseph’s College after crossing over from Athulathmudali.

Chetiya will never want to hide the fact that it was St. Joseph’s College that gave him a big hand when he needed one as his family went through some hard times. “My mother, brother and sister were all united and we overcame many barriers thanks to St. Joseph’s College. I only played some junior rugby at Athulathmudali when I was 14 years and my biggest moment came when St. Joseph’s College won the Knock-Out title last year when we beat Isipathana”, said Chetiya. “I don’t think I would have come this far if not for my mother who was there for me at all times no matter what the problem was”. Chetiya said he took a lot of inspiration from former Sri Lanka fly-half Fazil Marija and New Zealand full-back Damian Mckenzie while his coach Nilfer Ibrahim turned him into that polished gem.

“Our own coach Nilfer Ibrahim has always made me comfortable and treated all of us like friends and I learnt a lot from his coaching”, said Chetiya.

Ibrahim is also the coach of the Sri Lanka Under-20 team, a post that analysts say he should have had much earlier.

Ibrahim has no qualms about the team he will take to Hong Kong next week.

“I think the selection committee has done a very good job and took my thoughts into account when the final selections were made”, said Ibrahim.

“The tournament will be tough, but I’m fully confident with the team we have chosen. It would have been still better if we had started to train a week earlier”, said Ibrahim.