Buried for good or awaiting resurrection? | Sunday Observer

Buried for good or awaiting resurrection?

Like it or not: Kandy SC the only club outside Colombo that is keeping rugby alive
Like it or not: Kandy SC the only club outside Colombo that is keeping rugby alive

Will the rugby governing body, Sri Lanka Rugby, be able to bring back Dimbulla Athletic & Cricket Club, Dickoya Maskeliya Cricket Club and Uva Gymkhana Club to redeem lost prestige in a game which was dominated by these three clubs at one time? Your guess is as good as mine.

The sport was first introduced to Sri Lanka (Ceylon) in 1879 with the corporate sector initiating rugby promotions in Colombo and taking it to the Up Country by the planting sector confined to the British Raj. The seeds of rugby were planted in the Up Country with Scottish and Englishmen stationed in the plantations. During this time the game of rugby flourished mainly due to the enthusiasm among plantation companies and their commitment to promote it in Sri Lanka.

In the good old days the Clifford Cup was played at either Radella Dimbulla ground or Darawella Dickoya MCC ground. This glittering silver trophy holds a prominent place in its own right in the history of the game. The clubs that represented the upcountry were Dimbula A & CC, Dickoya MCC, Uva Gymkhana and Kandy SC.

According to past records of rugby, those who took the game seriously in the early years were the planting community from Dickoya, Dimbulla , Uva and Kandy. In 1908 when the Ceylon Rugby Football Union was formed these clubs, Dimbulla, Dickoya MCC, Kandy SC, Uva Gymkhana Club and Kalutara SC were around. During that year only two Kandy schools Trinity and Kingswood were playing the game. And there were two Ceylonese teams Kandy Rovers and Colombo Ceylonese.

The first ever club game to be played was between two Up-Country clubs, Dickoya MCC versus Dimbulla A & CC. This match was played on September 7, 1880 with the Dickoya planters winning the game by 9 points to 3.

This match was played at Darawella. The return game took place a week later at the Radella ground and Dimbulla came out as winners 3-0.

Unfortunately, sad to say, today these two clubs have been out of rugby for quite a long time with no interest from either the plantation companies or the planters themselves. May be it is too much of a busy world?

Some of the Dickoya players were Metafile, Curtis, Frees, Dove, Roswell, Corrier, Graham, Haden, Messervy, Ogilvy, Parsons, Power, Wetherill, Wilton and Richardson. Dimbulla had players like Fyers, Tatha, Verelsh, Wright, Boyd, Evens, Fitzclarence, Gwatkin, Hardie, McIntosh, Roper, Setton, Tynte and Wright.

Dimbulla Athletic & CC was the first Clifford Cup winners from the Up-Country in 1953 when the tournament was only four years old. Dimbulla was founded in 1856 and their sports activities were rugby, cricket, squash, billiards and snooker, tennis and badminton. But their favourite game was rugby until the mid 1970s when sports declined after the plantations were nationalised.

In 1956, Dimbulla and Dickoya combined and played as Dim-Dicks. Then again in 1959 Dimbulla entred the Clifford Cup final and shared the Cup with CR & FC. Another movement came in 1970 under the leadership of Ken Murray when Dimbulla emerged as league champions and they were deprived of the rugby double when they lost to Abdul Majeed’s Police team 0-6 in the Clifford Cup knockout semi-finals. This club was not only a major force in rugby but produced some of the finest players in the country in the likes of D.R. Macare, J. Bousfield, J. Warning, Miles Christoffelsz, Larry Shockman, S. Canagasabai, M. Parry, I. McDonals, Mike de Alwis, Stanly Unamboowe, Dharmasiri Madugalle, Owen Mottau, Jayantha Jayewardena, Rohan Wijenayake, Clifford Elahart, Roger D’ Silva, Sunil Jayakody, Tommy Kelaart, Peter Amerasinghe, Rohan Kulatunga, Mohan Samarakoon, Iswan Omar, Tuan Dole, PHAN Dias, Brian Lourensz, Lanil Tennakoon, Brian Lieverze, Cedric and Brian Munaweera, Maithri Liyanage, Chandika Brodie, Senaka Alawattegama, Johnny Daniels, Mohan Ganapathy, D.J. Ratwatte, Ana Wijeratne, Trevor Nugawella, Channa de Costa, Ravi Bandaranayake and Ronnie Ibrahim to name a few.

On April 17, 1954 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, visited the club as part of their tour of Ceylon and witnessed these clubs in action.

The Dickoya Maskeliya Cricket Club also known as DMCC is another sporting club formed by British tea planters and founded in 1868. The clubhouse and ground are situated at the foothills of the Darawella Estate and therefore the club is often called the Darawella Club. The club’s first official rugby match was played at this Darawella ground.

In 1958 Dickoya MCC led by Barry Cameron, successfully made the final of the Clifford Cup for the first time in their own right, losing to CR & FC. In 1961, under the leadership of MGK Macpherson the man who led Kandy SC in the 1955 Cup final, they repeated the feat competing in the final against Havelock SC led by Dr. Hurbert Aloysius who they eventually lost to 11–9 due to an off-side peanlty.

In that year, Dickoya MCC had a few locals in the calibre of TB Pilapitiya, Rohan Wijenayake, BI Gunawardena and Uvais Odayar. Some of the top products of this club were Barry Cameron, Tony Johnson, Chris Bean, Lionel Almeida, Uvais Odayar, David Weatherton, Baila Samarasinghe, D. Bretherton, Dharmasiri Madugalle, Rohan Abeyasundara, JME Warning, Mohan Samarakoon, Iswan Omar, Irwin Howie, CD Gibon, Lanil Tennakoon, Ranga Gunasekara, Mohan Ganapathy, Mahen Madugalle, Tony Perera, Dushy Perera, Tariq Omar, Dilkshan Ratwatte, Dushan Ratwatte, Rohan Edwards, Sumedha Ratwatte, Suresh Navaratnam, Rajivi Bandaranayake and Chanake Hearth.

The Uva Gymkhana Club was the first club from the Up-Country to enter the Clifford Cup final in 1952 and lost to CR & FC by 19 points to nil. Uva Gymkhana Club also produced good rugby teams and was formed in the 1880s in the Badulla town and was later amalgamated with the Gymkhana Club. Rugby players of Uva who played the game at the highest levels being so far away from the main city had great times with entertainment at its best and as such they acquired the name “Merrie on Men”. At that time, the most looked forward to match was between Uva and CH & FC.

Uva Gymkhana Club played the game of rugby in grand style with recognition from all sectors. Their first Clifford Cup team was made up of L. Herath, A. Ariarajah, C. MaCaulayt, P. Pontibridge, G. Fernando, R. Tissera, G. Pethiyagoda, F. Brown, H. Froxely, D. Dawson, M. McKohenck, D. Bertleet, G. Roberts, S. Scobie and J Mac.

At one time the Uva Gymkhana Club in fact played rugby on a grand scale. The club was formed in 1928 and there were sports like rugby, cricket, tennis, hockey, billards and snoker and badminton. The Uva Gymkhana Club at one time conducted horse racing as well.

Some of the top players who turned out for Uva were ACB Horfall, CD Herath, MM Clarke, JT Pettgraw, F. Aldons, K. Ariarajah, D. Parkar, Tyrone Howie, RG Howie, J. Boyd Moss, J. Garner, Ralph Gauder, SB Pilapitiya, A. Hamer, Lionel Almeida, Rayan Howie, Ronnie Gunaratne, Lanil Tennekoon, Sarath de Zoysa, DN “Nipa” Pilimatalawa, Farook “Baba” Cassim, Mohan Samarasinghe, Uvais Odayar, Goerge Jayasena, Dharmasiri Madugalle, Franklyn Jacob, Iswan Omar, Gamini Udugama, Sunil Serasinghe, David Withem to name a few.

Possessing a rich rugby legacy and being among the pioneer rugby playing clubs in the teardrop island, has a story to say. The beginning of such a story could always be on similar lines because the rugby history of Sri Lanka could not be scripted without reference to the other. The history also depicts the game’s early beginnings in Sri Lanka. By this report, it is believed that Sri Lanka Rugby would at least look to find a way to entice the Up-Country clubs to link rugby once again so as to form one of the brightest chapters in Sri Lankan rugby.