‘Rugby made me a work Professional’ | Sunday Observer

‘Rugby made me a work Professional’

5 July, 2020
Bharatha Mendis
Bharatha Mendis

To Bharatha Mendis, rugby is not just a game - it's a passion and a passionate pastime in his life. And he learned a lot which ultimately had a huge impact towards his lifestyle from this beautiful game. 

He still cherishes the lessons he learnt as an outstanding player for his Alma mater at both Isipathana and Trinity College. 

Perhaps, rugby would have been the very reason for his gaining recognition wherever he goes throughout his life. 

Talking exclusively to the Sunday Observer, Mendis recalled how an illustrious rugby career could help build one's character. 

“I believe in teamwork. This is one major lesson that my favourite game - rugby has taught me throughout the years,”said Mendis. 

“Sports helped me to infuse qualities such as leadership, sharing work, determination and having faith in my team mates,” he said. 

Like for many, school was the best time of Mendis’ life. “I owe everything to my two schools Isipathana and Trinity,” he recalled. 

In the 1979 Bradby first leg Trinity were trailing Royal when Mendis scored a memorable match-winning try in the dying stages at Bogambara in fading light. 

It was a day on which he had the honour of bringing joy to all the Trinitians young and old who were present at Bogambara. 

“That was my best moment on a rugby playing field in a school match” said Mendis. 

“Trinity had great years of rugby and great teams, but I personally believe it’s undoubtedly the Trinity1974 team led by CY Ching senior, the 1977 team captained by Ravi Balasuriya and the 1987 team led by Tyrell Rajapakse that stand out on top.” 

Mendis also had the distinction of representing triple champions Havelock Sports Club in all three tournaments in 1981 under former Peterite Angelo Wickramaratne. 

After leaving school in 1980, Mendis continued to play club rugby for Havies, where he earned a reputation as a much sought-after player. He was an automatic choice occupying both centre and wing positions until he finally decided to hang up his boots as a young star after the 1983 inter club season at the age of 23. 

Mendis was the unsung hero in 1981and helped his club win the triple championship. He vividly remembers how as awing three-quarter he left everyone foxed as he engineered a win at the last minute in the league rugby tournament’s deciding game at Havelock Park in 1981when his team was trailing Police. 

It was during stoppage time, or what was called injury time, that he received the ball from his fly half the ex-Peterite Frank Hubert and ran nearly 45 metres and was about to score near the touchline when he was held by a Police defender. But he managed to keep the ball until support-play came in and he was able to lob a quick pass to Hubert and the rest is history as Hubert scored mid right, bringing the league title to Havelocks. 

Mendis was once again the unsung hero at the Clifford Cup knock-out tournament final also against Police in 1981at the CR & FC ground at Longden Place. 

Ten minutes away from the full time, Mendis playing on the wing collected a pass and sprinted down the right flank and when challenged, executed a judicious punt towards the in-goal area which was collected by a Police defender. 

But Mendis made a cracking tackle on the Police player who was in possession of the ball which popped out of his hands and dropped loose and in turn was picked up and touched down for a match-winning try by Havies skipper, the granite flanker Angelo Wickramaratne. 

Turning his attention to legends Wickramaratne and Hisham Abdeen, Mendis said: “Both were fantastic players with a spectacular high spirit in them and I have no second thoughts that they were both true rugby legends and I was really fortunate enough and really honoured to play alongside both these great players.” 

In retrospect Mendis did not hesitate to pay tribute to his family. “My late mother (Rukmani) had been my best inspiration and undoubtedly I am eternally grateful to her. I owe my heartiest gratitude to my immediate family,” Mendis declared.