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Highlanders in a big win

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by Rajitha Ratwatte

The Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin was hosts to the NSW Waratahs with a Otago Highlanders side minus their star halfback Aaron Smith taking them on. The second minute of the game saw the ‘Landers on the board with Michael Collins dotting down under posts off a turnover obtained basically from the kick-off.

The Referee Damon Murphy got the TMO involved to check for obstruction but finally awarded the try, 7 – 0 to the hosts. Sevevn minutes into the game the ‘Tahs got a penalty 25 meters out and mid-right and Will Harrison made short work of that 7 – 3.

Three minutes later Jack Maddox ran outside the Highlanders speedster Jonah Nareki (a rare occurrence) and scored a seven pointer to take the visitors into the lead 7 – 10.

Thirteen minutes into the game Nareki earned his side a penalty by what was deemed a high tackle on him and the subsequent line out from the touch gaining kick saw Sio Tomkinson who is usually a midfielder but was playing on the wing this game, cut inside pick up a loose pass and scored mid-right for the Highlanders.

Another seven pointer taking the ‘Landers back into the lead 14 – 10. The man with the impossible name, Mark Nawaquanitawase ran through a few gaps in the Highlanders defence and got the Waratahs back into the lead with another goal 14 – 17. Grant Nesbitt the premier rugby commentator in New Zealand predicted a try fest at this stage of the game and boy was he right!

The Highlanders game plan to keep playing in Waratahs territory was working with Sio Tomkinson able to charge down a clearing kick win his side a turnover penalty and we had the magnificent sight of tight head prop Ethan De Groot charging his way over the Waratahs line to score mid-right.

The kick was not converted but the lead changed once again 19 – 17 to the hosts. The first scrum of the game was in the 20th minute and the ‘Tahs won a penalty that was kicked from 46 meters out and straight in front of the posts.

Eight minutes from half-time the Highlanders rolling maul got going and Ash Dickson their skipper and hooker benefitted, as usual, going over the line and after the referee checked for a clear grounding the try was awarded mid right.

Seven points resulted and another lead change 26 – 20. Both sides were not done yet and the Aussies strung together nine phases and finally decided to kick at goal from 22 meters out, mid-right, and shorten the lead to 26 – 23.

Almost on the half-time hooter the Highlanders Japanese number eight Kazuki Himeno made a great break and passed to Jonah Nareki who showed a clean pair of heels to score far left. Another seven points to the Highlanders with Mitch Hunt adding the extra points from a difficult angle. Half-time score 33 – 23 with 56 points being scored in 40 minutes of pulsating rugby.

Four minutes into the second-half, the ‘Tahs lost a defensive line out and the ‘Landers tight head prop De Groot got himself another try, going over the line mid-right. Mitch Hunt was in great kicking form and seven points more took the score to 40 – 23. 12 minutes into the half the ‘Tahs were denied a try by being caught out by the TMO for tackling without the ball or an early tackle on Jonah Nareki who also seemed to injure his shoulder badly. Nareki chose to continue playing and tackled ferociously and won a turnover penalty for his side. The subsequent touch finder, saw the Highlanders rolling maul activated once again and Kazuki Himeno got himself over the line. The conversion struck the left upright and the resulting five points to the score to 45 – 23.

Ten minutes from full-time, Josh Ioane playing at full-back and having a subdued game, drew two defenders and passed beautifully to Johan Nareki on the wing who switched the afterburners on and streaked his way through 20 meters to score again. Probably restoring some pride in beating his opposite number Jack Maddox who had got the better of him early in the game. Hunt converted spectacularly from a difficult angle and the fifty was up for the Highlanders 52 – 23.

A vital bonus point earned as there is little doubt now that the finalists will be from among the Kiwi teams who win with bonus points. The final try of this “try fest” came from Highlanders substitute number eight Ben Nicholas who went off the back of the scrum and scored in the old-fashioned, traditional number eight fashion to take the final tally to 59 – 23 with the Highlanders winning and securing the vital bonus point. No scoring at all from the Waratahs in the second-half concluding seven losses in 12 games played.



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Nilani’s chances and the importance of quality competition

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by Reemus Fernando

It will be an anxious few days for country’s number one long distance runner Nilani Ratnayake as the Tokyo Olympic qualification deadline looms. For a better part of the last two years Ratnayake was country’s highest ranked athlete in the ‘Road to Olympic Rankings’. In the Asian Rankings she was only second to Winfred Mutile Yavi of Bahrain in her pet event, the 3,000 metres steeplechase. In the ‘Road to Olympic Rankings she was well within the required rankings to earn the ticket to Tokyo. But two weeks ahead of the Olympic qualification deadline she has dropped to the 39th position. But that is not due to a lack of commitment or form but due to things beyond her control.

Lack of quality competitions to compensate solid training regimens has been a problem ailing country’s progress in track and field. Though experts, mostly the former athletes and Olympians who had benefited from overseas training and competitions, have repeatedly highlighted the need to provide quality competitions for local athletes, they have often fell on deaf ears. The World Athletics’ world ranking system, which heavily favours top grade competitions, requires athletes seeking top rankings to compete in such championships. An athlete seeking Olympic qualification has to excel at top competitions if he or she is to realize the dream of competing at the quadrennial event.

The Covid 19 pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the aspirations of country’s Olympic hopefuls in the track and field sport as they have been deprived of quality competitions to improve their rankings. The Asian Athletics Championship did not take place due to the pandemic and many other regional competitions also did not see the light of day due to the same reason.

In a desperate move Sri Lanka Athletics tried to send their top athletes for a meet in Kazakhstan but lack of interest from the part of organizers in helping visa proceedings derailed the plan. The Indian Track and Field authorities have extended an invitation to their Sri Lankan counterparts to field a team for their Inter State meet starting on June 25 but the tour was still doubtful when this article went to press.

The US based high jumper Ushan Thivanka climbed up the world rankings in dramatic fashion during the last few months. But he is stranded in the 52nd position in the Road to Olympic Rankings due to unavailability of competitions. Thivanka has a seasonal best of 2.30 metres, his new Sri Lanka record, but needs to clear 2.33 metres or reach a ranking position of 32 if he is to compete in Olympics.

There are others. Rio Olympic participant Sumeda Ranasinghe is currently ranked 48th in the Road to Olympic Rankings, middle distance runner Nimali Liyanarachchi is ranked 55th, just seven ranking positions behind the selection mark and sprinter Nadeesha Ramanayake is ranked 56th and needs to climb just eight positions up if she is to realize her dream.

Now take the case of Italy based sprinter Yupun Abeykoon. He needed just a single Diamond League Competition last week to overtake more than thirty athletes and secure a position among the top 50 athletes in the world rankings. He was placed fourth there. He is now almost certain of his participation in the Olympics as he has couple of more competitions to maintain his rankings.

It is no simple task to secure a position among the top 100 athletes in the world. There are other local athletes who have secured positions among the top 100 athletes in the world in their respective disciplines despite not taking part in quality international competitions. They have toiled hard for years to reach where they are and with the hope of doing their best this year. They will feel hard done by as hopes of reaching qualifying standards diminish due to lack of competitions.

Nilani Ratnayake’s chances of competing in Tokyo will depend on the performances of her rivals who are ranked below her during the next week. Ratnayake last competed in an international event in 2019. She needs to remain within the top 48 athletes in world rankings by June 29 if she is to take part.

True that the Covid 19 pandemic was responsible for the lost opportunities that denied chances of improving world rankings but it is incumbent upon authorities to realize the value of making available quality competitions for deserving athletes.

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Sportsmen, sponsors and ambush marketing

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by Rex Clementine

For the T-20 World Cup that is scheduled for later this year, the Sri Lankan players like all else will be supposed to sign participation agreements and one key point in these agreements is the ‘Ambush Marketing Clause’. This particular clause protects the sponsors of the International Cricket Council and players are supposed not to endorse any rival products of the official sponsors during and 30 days either side of the event.

How and why did the ‘Ambush Marketing Clause’ come about? Here’s how.  During the 1996 World Cup, Coca-Cola had signed up as one of the tournament sponsors and promoted their drinks with the tag-line, ‘the official soft-drinks of the World Cup’. Pepsi, another giant in the trade, hit back running television advertisements that you are chilled out and relaxed with a Pepsi in hand and they used some clever words, ‘Nothing official about it.’

They went a step or two further actually.  Pepsi had leading Indian players like Mohammad Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar as their brand ambassadors. Now during drinks break, a Coke trolley would come  into the ground but none of India’s leading players would go closer to it and one of the reserve players from the dressing room would bring them drinks separately.

This was a huge cause for concern and the ICC had to address the issue. Soon, the Ambush Marketing Clause came to effect. The players were up in arms, naturally, as they were losing out some big endorsements. But with home boards promising to compensate the players, they eventually signed the contracts.

Some Sri Lankan players too cashed in during the 2003 World Cup. They never had any deals with rival companies of the official sponsors but they made most of the stance the Indian players had taken.  Hemaka Amarasuriya, the Chairman of the Cricket Board at that point, told the players to sign the agreement, play the tournament and that they would be compensated accordingly. Amarasuriya kept a gentleman’s agreement by parting ways with 25% of the participation fee that the ICC paid the board.

Successive Sri Lanka Cricket administrations have followed Amarasuriya’s  lead although the amount has been cut down in recent times as the performance of the team has been below par.

There was a reason for us to suddenly bring up the Ambush Marketing Clause. Anyone who is following EURO 2020 would have seen the plight of soft drinks giant Coke after Portugal captain Christiano Rolando removed two Coca-Cola bottles from the press conference table.  Coke has reportedly suffered four billion US$ fall of the share prices.

Since Ronaldo, other players have followed suit.  Each sponsor paid a sum of US$ 30 million for the organizers and the fall out is sure to have major repercussions. Incidentally, Coke used to be a personal sponsor of Ronaldo years back.

Ronaldo’s action is nothing new in sports. During  the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, basketball star Michael Jordan covered the Reebok logo in his official kits strategically draping it with an American flag. This was to show solidarity with his personal sponsor Nike.

The millions that sponsors pour in is vital to nurture any sport at grass root levels. The marketing experts of sports bodies must be fretting over on the measures that need to be taken to protect their sponsors from superstars who have massive following all over the world. Ronaldo’s actions could take sports marketing to different scales.

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Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society win third place

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The medal winning karatekas with Chief Instructor Sensei Lakshman Saparamadu.

 

Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won 33 medals at the E – Kata International Karate Tournament recently.

This team were placed third at the tournament organized by the United Universal Shotokan Karate Association. The event was conducted using video technology. Some thirty counties participated in this tournament.

Karatekas fielded by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won twelve gold, eleven silver and ten bronze medals. They were trained by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society’s Chief Instructor, Sensei , Lakshman Saparamadu. (Text and pic by W.D. Vithana Delgoda Corr.)

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