Let’s preserve the rich rugby legacy of Dimbula, Dickoya and Uva | Sunday Observer

Let’s preserve the rich rugby legacy of Dimbula, Dickoya and Uva

12 June, 2021

At a time when rugby is dormant in the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is apt to recall the contribution made by three up country clubs who laid their hands on the coveted Clifford Cup – the oldest rugby tournament in the island.

The planting community played a major role in taking the game out of Colombo when rugby football was introduced in Ceylon as Sri Lanka was then known in 1879. The seeds of rugby were planted in the hill stations by Scottish and Englishmen stationed in the plantations. The game of rugby flourished mainly due to their enthusiasm and commitment.

In fact the final of the Clifford Cup tournament was played at either Radella or Darawella. Dimbula ACC, Dickoya MCC and Uva were at one time the three top leading rugby clubs in the country.

When the Ceylon Rugby Football Union was formed in 1908 there were only five clubs - Dimbula ACC, Dickoya MCC, Kandy SC, Uva Gymkhana Club and Kalutara SC. 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.

In the first ever club game to be played at Darawella in 1880, Dickoya MCC defeated Dimbula ACC 9-3. In the return game at Radella, Dimbula came out winners 3-0. Unfortunately, today, these two clubs have been out of rugby for quite some time with no interest from either the plantation companies or the planters themselves.

Dimbula was founded in 1856 and were the first Clifford Cup winners in 1953. A combined Dimbula-Dickoya (Dim-Dicks) team were runner-up to CR & FC in the 1956 Clifford Cup. In 1970 under the leadership of evergreen Ken Murray, Dimbula emerged Clifford Cup division league champions and they were deprived of the rugby double when they lost to Abdul Majeed’s Policemen 0-6 in the Clifford Cup knockout semi-finals.

Dimbula ACC produced some of the finest ruggerites in the country namely D.R. Macare, J. Bousfield, J. Warning, Miles Christoffelsz, Larry Shockman, S. Canagasabai, M. Parry, I. McDonals, Mike de Alwis, Stanley Unamboowe, Dharmasiri Madugalle, Owen Mottau, Jayantha Jayawardene, Rohan Wijenayeke, 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, Johny Daniels, Mohan Ganapathy, D.J. Ratwatte, Ana Wijeratne, Trevor Nugawella, Channa de Costa, Ravi Bandaranayake and Ronnie Ibrahim.

Dickoya MCC was founded in 1874 and had the most beautiful rugby ground in the country - the picturesque Darawella ground with an excellent clubhouse with all facilities in prime condition. It was a venue visited by the England cricket legend Sir Jack Hobbs when they toured Sri Lanka and it is reported that he named his home Darawella after his return to England.

Dickoya entered the Clifford Cup finals in 1958 and 1961 and agonisingly in 1961 under M.G.K. Macpherson went down to Dr. Hubert Aloysius’ Havelocks SC team in the final seconds of the game due to an off-side penalty.

That Dickoya team had players of the calibre of T.B. Pilapitiya, Rohan Wijenayake, B.I. Gunawardena, Barry Cameron, Tony Johnson, Chris Bean, Lionel Almeida, Uvais Odayar, David Weatherton, ‘Baila’ Samarasinghe, D. Bretherton, Dharmasiri Madugalle, Rohan Abeyasundara, J.M.E. Warning, Mohan Samarakoon, Iswan Omar, Irwin Howie, C.D. Gibon, Lanil Tennakoon, Ranga Gunasekara, Mohan Ganapathy, Mahen Madugalle, Tony Perera, Dushy Perera, Tariq Omar, Dilshan Ratwatte, Dushan Ratwatte, Rohan Edwards, Sumedha Ratwatte, Suresh Navaratnam, Rajiv Bandaranayake and Chanake Herath.

Uva Gymkhana Club also produced some great rugby players and were dubbed the Merry Men of Uva founded in 1928. In 1952 they entered the Clifford Cup final and lost to CR & FC 19-0.

Some of the top players who played for Uva were ACB Horfall, C. D. Herath, M. M. Clarke, J. T. Pettgraw, F. Aldons, K. Ariarajah, D. Parkar, Tyrone Howie, R. G. Howie, Boyd Moss, J. Garner, Ralph Gauder, S. B. Pilapitiya, A. Hamer, Lionel Almeida, Rayan Howie, Ronnie Gunaratne, Lanil Tennekoon, Sarath de Zoysa, D. N. “Nipa” Pilimatalawa, Farook “Baba” Cassim, Mohan Samarasinghe, Uvais Odayar, George Jayasena, Dharmasiri Madugalle, Franklyn Jacob, Iswan Omar, Gamini Udugama, Sunil Serasinghe and David Withem.

It is hoped Sri Lanka Rugby would give these pioneering rugby clubs due recognition and help preserve their past glory and continue their legacy to enrich the sport in the island.