Let’s not forget Gamini Fernando | Sunday Observer

Let’s not forget Gamini Fernando

Gamini Fernando in his heydays
Gamini Fernando in his heydays

Kandy product, former Trinity College, Havelock Sports Club and Sri Lanka player Gamini Fernando who was a dedicated rugby player during his heydays, later became a top class administrator and today celebrates fifty nine years since he first stepped onto the scene at the Park Club.

At Trinity he excelled in rugby and cricket and in 1956 when the school introduced the under-17 team for the first time he was there. As a second row forward, he gave of his best for the senior team in his first year in 1958 under Ken de Joedt and in 1959 under Denzil Kobbekaduwa. Some of his teammates were M. Talwatte, ARM Azain, EDK Roles, PA Buultjens Jnr., S. Janikram, Ken Murray, Jayantissa Ratwatte, TP Hermon, Jayantha Jayawardena, SC de Silva, TN Cunchee, R. Madena, RW Madugalle and RR Samarakoon. Fernando won his rugby colours in 1959.

Fernando who was fondly called Gamma was also a fine cricketer and played along with Nimal Maralande, L. Thalakada, SM Perera, PS Jayasinghe, CVI Kodithuwakku and SM Weerasinghe. He was a good stroke maker and one of memorable knocks was a solid 61 against Zahira College in 1960 in which he had seven well timed hits to the rope and two over it. He won his cricket colours in 1960.

Soon after his school career ended in 1961, he left for Colombo and turned out for his favourite club the Havelock Sports Club as a flank forward and led the club in 1967. In the Clifford Cup final they beat their arch rivals CR and FC by 17 points to 15 and Gamma hung up his boots prematurely in 1969 having given his best as both player and captain.

His closest associate was in all probability the legendary YC Chang. Both came down to the Park Club in1961 and played till 1969, the year Kandy Sports Club entered the Clifford Cup final. YC later played for Kandy SC.

Gamma played for Sri Lanka in the All India Championships in 1966 and ‘67 and against the English Defence Services and foreign teams which toured Sri Lanka. He also represented Low-Country. But during his playing days, visits by international sides were few and far between.

Gamma, was a fine team man, a fearless tackler and a gentleman player. He coached Havelock Sports Club and at a certain time was helping Police SC in 1980 on an invitation from Anton Benedict. He was the national coach in 1978 the year Irwin Howie led the country as well as in 1979.

He refereed the game between the French University and an RAF team in 1979. That was the first time that two European teams played in Sri Lanka. He also refereed the 1975 Cup final and was one time the president of the SLRFU. Gamma always instilled the principle that if a player can say after a match “I had a nice time on the field”, that was enough. His biggest disappointment was in 1969 when he was caught in a quandary.

Gama was selected to play in the All India tournament, but he was disqualified subsequently on medical grounds, though the Rugby Union doctor LPD Gunawardena passed him fit. The irony of it all was that they took a hooker as his replacement. That put him down badly.

But Gamma was never discouraged and helped many players with accommodation. In the 1970s Kandy Sports Club players had a problem with accommodation while attending national team trials and Gamma reached out to them in Colombo.