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Old 15-07-09, 02:12 PM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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Default Warden and the gardener -mistaken identity

Warden and the gardener -mistaken identity
My Days at S.T.C (Episode 3)
By Quentin Israel
Within a year of joining S. Thomas', the Warden, C.H. Davidson asked me whether I would like to be a House Master in the boarding, as Lassie Abeywardena would be leaving and a vacancy would arise. Even though I was in my first year in College, he offered this post to me probably because I had been in the Trinity boarding, a prefect and had good references from the Principal, N.S. Walter and the Vice Principal, G.Y. Sahayam who taught me mathematics and Major Gordon Burrows, who was my choir master. I was also an Anglican. I was also involved in rugger at that time at Havelocks and the Warden had indicated that he required my services to help the college in rugger.

I informed him that I lived in Station Road, Dehiwela, just a five minutes bus ride to S.T.C. In any case, I continued, I would seek the permission of my father, which I subsequently obtained.

I thus, became House Master of Miller/Chapman and within the next few years, I was also appointed Senior Boarding House Master in change of Copleston / Claughton as well. The boarding was the life of the school and the rivalry between Miller/Chapman and Copleston / Claughton was very fierce, particularly in the field of rugby, when players went at each other with animal ferocity, resulting in many injuries. Wardens Canon R.S. de Saram, Mr. C.H. Davidson and Mr. S.J. Anandanayagam have always forcefully stated that the spirit of S. Thomas' came from the boarding. The boarding at that time was full and vibrant, but alas, it is no more. Most of the college cricketers, rugger players and athletes came from the boarding, while the entire hockey team came from Miller and Copleston.

Class examinations for the second term and then for the end of the year went on till the last day of that term. This necessitated the staff having to wait for a few days into the holidays in order to correct answer scripts, attend staff meetings and write out reports, with attendant remarks etc.

It so happened that on such an occasion while I was correcting answer scripts in my quarters from where I could see the main gate, college drive, the quadrangle and many school buildings, a large Chevrolet drove down the main drive. The school was deserted but for a gardener of Burgher descent, who was dressed in khaki shorts and a large khaki shirt with a torn pocket. On his head he wore an old broad brimmed green felt hat, associated with the Founder of Scouting, Lord Baden Powell. I must mention here that the Warden took a great interest in the beauty of the compound, and apart from occasionally attending to flowers in the absence of the gardener during the vacation, he would even pick up little bits of paper lying on the quadrangle lawn and stuff them into his pockets.

I got off my chair and walked to the parapet like wall under the open arch of my living room, which gave me a good view of the proceedings below. It was a large open car with the hood drawn down. A fair, lean boy was behind the steering wheel. He saw the gardener and tooted his horn and the gardener responded by looking back after the third toot, which was prolonged. Having caught the attention of the gardener, the boy beckoned him to come to the car. The gardener, not sure whether the boy referred to him, quizzically pointed his index finger to himself and the boy nodded in affirmation. The gardener obediently left his little garden implements and meekly complied.

The driver then addressed him "Hey Gardener, could you tell me where I could meet the Head of this College?" "Yes, of course," he replied. He then pointed to Thalassa, a building which housed the Accounts Office and the Warden's office, and said - "There it is. I am afraid you will not be able to drive direct from here. You will have to drive back through the gates through which you came, drive left, turn left at the first road intersection and again left and you will come to that ground you see over there and that is the office," he said, pointing to the building again. He then continued, "The person you wish to see should be there within 15 minutes. Please wait for him." The gardener then turned and proceeded towards a small gate leading towards another building.

He was about to disappear from sight when the boy called him back - "Hey gardener! please come back.” The gardener obliged and returned to the car. The boy reached for his wallet in his hip pocket, pulled out a note and with a smile, said "I 'm terribly sorry, I forgot to thank you and give you this." The gardener blushed and said with perfect diction "Thank you very much, it is kind of you but that will not be necessary." He then turned around and walked off again.

The boy drove to the office and asked Lassie Abeywardena, the College Bursar where theWarden’s office was. He was shown the room, sat down and patiently awaited the Warden’s arrival.

He did not have to wait long for soon the Warden arrived, said "Good Morning" to the boy and took his seat at the Warden's table. The boy was speechless for some time and then in his American accent proffered a profound apology when he realised the gardener,who had changed his attire, was in fact the Warden.

The Warden politely brushed it aside as a matter of no consequence and asked him - "Now what can I do for you?" He replied, "My name is Cooper, I am an American and my father is here on an UN assignment. I have heard so much about this school and I wish to be enrolled here as a student." The Warden pressed the button under his large table and Mr. Ferdinends stood before him. The Warden told Mr. Ferdinends - "This boy is joining S.T.C. Please enroll him and let him know what is required."

The boy was a good student and also represented the college in under 17 rugby and basketball.
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Old 09-04-17, 11:47 AM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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How psychology saved the Thomians

The Tsunami disaster that hit our country and brought in its wake devastation and terrific loss of life, has necessitated the postponement of the re-commencement of schools for the first term. I feel it would therefore be in the interests of the young ruggerites, to whom I address these coaching lessons, if I put off these articles to a later date, after schools re-open and are in full session, when boys' minds will be more receptive to instruction.

In the meantime, I shall continue with my reminiscences and anecdotes of interesting games of the past, particularly of school matches, in which I have indirectly played a part.

If this particular article lacks objectivity, I request the indulgence of my readers, for it cannot be otherwise, as I have played a prominent role in this saga. I refer to the Royal-Thomian encounter played in 1976 at Havelock Park, a significant year for Royal, a team captained by Weerakumar when they set a record score against Trinity that was captained by S.V. Ranasinghe. They beat them 36-0 at Longden Place and again by 25-6 at Bogambara.

The Royal side was packed with high quality players and had a formidable third row, with Saman Jayasinghe as No. 8, who later played for CH & FC and Sri Lanka over a long period of time and in my opinion was a brilliant player in his position, both in attack and defence. The two flankers were Asoka Siriwardene and Ajith Gunawardene, both fast breaking hard tacklers who were also good supporting players.

The Trinity side that lost that year against Royal in the two Bradby games was on paper a good side. In fact, hitherto, they had beaten all schools by record scores, with the exception of S. Thomas', to whom they lost by the narrowest of margins, 4-0 (a try at that time carried only 4 points). They beat St. Peter's College by over 50 points, a team captained by that outstanding flanker Angelo Wickremaratne, who subsequently captained the champion Havelocks side and Sri Lanka, but who (unfortunately for the Peterites) had to skip this game due to injury. What happened to that Trinity side was difficult to comprehend, as they unexpectedly and against all form, folded up meekly. That score became a record, till recently.

The Thomians too had a strong team comprising players who later distinguished themselves at club level and some at national level. The team was captained by that burly prop forward, Stefan D' Silva and the rest of the team were P.L. Munasinghe, who had captained S.T.C. the previous year, Michael Jayasekera, a brilliant centre, but who then played stand-off for S.T.C, Pat Jacob, Shane Pinder, Wilhelm Bogstra, Theadore Thambipillai, D.K. Supramaniam, Avindra de Silva (who substituted for Tusitha Ranasinghe as scrum half as he was badly concussed in the Trinity game), Hafeel, Kapila Waidyaratne, who incidently scored the winning try against Trinity, J. Ponniah, Daruk Peiris (a fearless No. 8), Charitha Wickramatilleke and E.G. Ratnayake.

Both teams were unbeaten with the prize scalp of Trinity tucked in their respective belts. I must mention here, that at that time to beat Trinity at rugby was the ultimate objective of all rugby schools. They were much feared and respected, as the rugby prowess of their players and the quality of play they dished out, were legendary. I must now turn back the clock to the crucial practice on that Monday evening before the Saturday game against Royal. I had my tea in my quarters, adjoining Miller-Chapman, changed into my rugby kit and with whistle swinging at the end of a cord in my hand, I approached the big club (a name given by S.T.C. to the big grounds by the sea). I was deep in thought wondering what my game plan should be against the powerful Royalists, who had only the week before mercilessly humiliated Trinity.

When I approached them, I felt something unusual, for instead of practising certain movements on their own accord, which they normally did and not waste time, they were all glum and uncharacteristically inert, without indulging in their routine activity. As I came up to them, they stood up and looked at me as though a grave calamity had befallen them. I looked at them quizzically and asked them whether someone close to any of them had expired. They shook their heads to indicate thay it was not so, but yet remained mute. I then told them to cheer up and tell me their problem. Stefan D' Silva, a tough combatant who would even take on the devil and his legions, head on, was non committal and was jabbing the toe of his boot on the grass. Perky little Pat Jacob, the hooker and a bundle of dynamite, became the mouthpiece of the team and told me thus: "Sir, we are playing Royal this Saturday and we got only 4 points against Trinity, while Royal got 36 and also gave no points away". The 2nd leg of the Bradby had not been played at that time.

I asked them to sit on the grass. My mind raced, for here was a team that lost its confidence and I had to do something fast to restore their confidence. I had to reassure them and make them believe in themselves and their ability to beat Royal.

I must confess, that at that time my coaching experience was limited, but I knew I had a good team and that all the players were competent in their respective positions and that I had to analyse aloud our mutual strengths and weaknesses and motivate and show them how we could get the better of Royal.

What I relate may not get the approval of Tissa Guneratne, a member of the family that presented the Challenge Cup for the Royal-Thomian rugby encounter, or Jed Guneratne, a stalwart and die-hard Royalist, whose late brother C.V. (Puggy) played against me in a Bradby of years gone by. They are both friends of mine who have helped with Bradby tickets whenever the need arose and we always have fun at the expense of each other's school.

I told the players that winning or losing in rugby boils down essentially to possession. The side that has ball has the opportunities of scoring while the other side hasn't. You deprive the other side of the ball and they cannot score. They all agreed. The set-pieces to restart a game after a minor infringement is the scrum and when the ball goes into touch, it is the line-out. They all agreed.

I then asked them with regard to a scrum, whether we could win our throw-in. The pack, led by mouth piece, Pat Jacob said "No problem, Sir". I then asked them about the Royal loose-head or their throw-in. Stefan D' Silva said: "We could wheel, change direction of the shove and give them bad ball". I must mention here, that according to the present laws, deliberate wheeling is outlawed but it was not so at that time. The theory was, that when Royal throws the ball into a scrum, the Thomians adopt an 8-man shove and force a wheel, by one flank yielding, thereby serving the dual purpose of making the ball shoot out, without being properly channeled and also making their third row ineffective. Wheeling was also useful on one's own throw-in for ensuing quality possession, without opposition third-row interference. With that understood, the question of scrums, whether tight head or loose head, was reasonably solved.

The next problem was the line-out. At this moment I must mention that at that time, the line -out laws were completely different. There was no lifting in the line out and it was the individual skill and timing of the jumper and thrower, that counted. Further, there was no one-metre gap between the two lines of players and they touched one another while forming a line-out. Needless to state, a lot of the foul play, unknown to the referee, took place in a line-out.

When I asked the players about possession in the line-out, they were glum and said that Royal line-out specialist, Seyyed who was about 6 ft. 6 ins. would scornfully look down on them and effortlessly pluck the ball against them from the air. Of course, on our throw-in, we could have a short line and throw over the top, but here again, it was a fifty-fifty chance of getting theball. In any case such ball would not be quality ball, and we abandoned this option.

The entire team agreed that without line-out possession, which we may not get even on our throw-in, we had no chance of winning. We considered a short line with a throw over the top, and also a low hard-throw at No. 2, but decided all these measures were useless. The team knew that the Royal pack was formidable and also that their backs, were good. They had earlier run circles round the Trinitians. It was thus unanimously decided, that it was a futile exercise contesting possession.

It was known that Seyyed jumped at No. 2. In fact he did not have to jump, but just put his hands up and catch the ball.
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Old 09-04-17, 11:48 AM
sriyanj sriyanj is offline
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I then decided on a course of action that my Royal friends would only now know. I decided that we concede uncontested possession to Seyyed and thereafter put him under tremendous pressure and neutralize his usefulness. The team worked on psychology and made it conveyed to him that the Thomians would isolate him for special treatment. With this in view, Stefan D' Silva, who stood at No. 1 in the line-out, shifted to No. 3, just behind Seyyed at No. 2 and instructed him that if Seyyed moved to No. 4, Stefan should move to No. 5. The art of securing ball from the line-out jumper and mauling was not known at that time and it was straight-forward wedge binding, after the ball was caught. The moment Seyyed collected the ball, with of course, his feet on the ground, he became the unfortunate legitimate victim of a severe pounding from Stefan, from behind. Stefan was a hefty 206 pounds of pure muscle. Stefan followed him to No. 4 and I was told that on one Thomian throw-in after Seyyed had been softened, Stefan ordered the Thomian thrower to throw the ball to Seyyed, to which Seyyed reacted and cried in painful anguish, not to throw the ball to him.

The psychological pressure on Seyyed was imposed on him even before the game and that was when he went to the urinals before the match. Stefan stood behind him, insisting that he use the same urinal as Seyyed, even though, it was pointed out to Stefan that there were other urinals, unused at that time.

The game was played at a furious pace and during the early part of the first half, off a scrum in the Thomian half, the Thomian scrum half sent a wayward pass to an out-of-position stand-off, when Michael Jayasekera moved to centre for D.K. Supramaniam, who played on the right wing, to act as stand-off. One of the Royal flankers pounced on the loose ball to pickup and score under the posts. It was converted and Royal led 6-0.

They held on to this score well into the second half, even though S.T.C. attacked relentlessly. Late in the second half, Royal won a scrum on their 25 yards (now 22m). They initiated an attack in which Skanda Fernando, brother of Jagath, made a feeble chip over the fast approaching defence which Thomian centre, Wilhelm Bogstra held with much glee and scampered untouched to score between the posts. D.K. Supramaniam converted to tie the game, 6-6.

Except for the Royal game, S.T.C. won all the other games that season, beating Nalanda 82-6, Isipathana 36-0, Vidyartha 62-0, Ananda 52-0, St. Anthony's 19-4, Trinity 4-0, St. Peter's 14-3 and Thurstan 10-0.

Stefan D' Silva is presently in Sydney and is a Prison Warden in one of the biggest jails in Australia. He periodically returns to Sri Lanka and helps S.T.C. in coaching.

The Right Paper
Daily Mirror on the Web
Wednesday, January.05, 2005
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