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Yoshitha survived the knocks in rugby

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Navy SC’s Yoshitha Rajapaksa is set to make his retirement from rugby this Saturday.

Retires from the game this Saturday

By a Special Sports Correspondent

Former Thomian, Sri Lanka, and present Navy Sports Club player Yoshitha Rajapaksa expects to bring the curtain down on his rugby career after he plays his final match on April 2 (Saturday) at Longden Place.

Yoshitha’s decision to quit playing the game was confirmed by Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR) sources.  Hence he will be seen wearing the Navy jersey for the last time in this game where the ‘Sailors’ take on CR&FC.

He had his education at the school by the sea–S. Thomas’ College Mount Lavinia-so it was probably by choice and not coincidence that he chose to represent the ‘seagoing force’ when he decided to continue his rugby career after leaving school. He cut his teeth in the game at S.Thomas’ and even captained the school at First XV rugby; an achievement very few have achieved and all those who did are proud of.

But club rugby was a much more difficult experience for him. The transition from school rugby to club rugby overnight is unthinkable for even the greatest schoolboy rugby players. Yoshitha was no great player, but he had a large heart to continue rugby. With survival skills and just by hanging on there he got accustomed to senior rugby and eventually made it to the national pool. He played in his pet position as a flanker forward.

Before Yoshitha his brother Namal and later the younger sibling Rohitha being involved in the game coupled by their father Mahinda Rajapaksa being the president of the country made rugby the much talked about sport in the island. Rugby eventually became the ‘royal sport’ in the country. Those who would have been mere spectators took prominent roles in rugby administration and coaching during the time the Rajapaksas were at the peak of their careers.

But many good things also happened to the game during their time. There was a tussle for the national captaincy at one time when Yoshitha was just a ‘babe’ in the game. But when the time came for Yoshitha to captain we saw the players gelling together with him and there was hardly any internal conflicts within the national side.

The highlights of his career were that Sri Lanka, under his captaincy, became runners-up at the Asian Five Nations in Division 1 in 2012 and eventually won it the following year (2013). He also led the national side to win the Bowl Championship at the 2011 Borneo Sevens. He was a member of the Sri Lanka side that contested the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland.

Despite a pretty ‘decent’ career in rugby Yoshitha’s life was punctuated with legal issues. He had to face legal investigations regarding financial discrepancies associated with Carlton Sports Network. His name featured prominently in the investigations carried into the murder case of star rugby player Wasim Thajudeen. But Yoshitha surfaced from the bottom of all this turmoil; probably showing everyone that rugby had molded him into an individual who can weather any storm in life.

Apart from his involvement in rugby this second son in the Rajapaksa family also shone in the sport of shooting; winning the President’s medal for standard division at the 2012 National Handgun Championships conducted by the National Raffle Association of Sri Lanka. Despite the focus now being on Yoshitha it was Namal who outshone the two other siblings at rugby when the family got involved in the game. Namal played his best rugby at school and even captained the under 20 national side. He too represented Sri Lanka as a hooker and was a prominent member of the Navy Sports Club side in division 1 rugby.

The 34-year-old Yoshitha carries much experience as a player and a citizen of the country. He served the Sri Lanka Navy in the capacity of Lieutenant Commander and at present is the current Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, his father. In 2019 Yoshitha tied the knot with Nitheesha Jayasekara. We really don’t know what he plans to do after hanging up his boots. But sources close to him opine that Yoshitha would most likely be connected to rugby in some form of an administrative role. For the record, his elder brother Namal is the present Sports Minister of the country and his younger brother Rohitha represents CH&FC in Division 1 rugby.

It’s remarkable to have had a career spanning 15 years in rugby at present because modern rugby is so demanding and physical. Given the punishing routine, club rugby players have to endure they hardly last more than a couple of seasons before hanging up their boots. Yoshitha taught us to hang in there when the chips were down. He continued to play rugby when his dad lost the election and was relegated to the opposition. At present, he is playing under Adeesha Weeratunga, who is leading Navy Sports Club. Yoshitha could have a smile on his face because when he is about to retire he is seeing his brother, Rohitha, lifting his game and inspiring the team that he (Rohitha) represents: CH&FC. Any brother would love to see the family baton being handed over to a capable person and Yoshitha has found one.

Yoshitha is sure to take great memories home after he retires from the game. His critics might have much to say. But he reminded everyone that the career is short for those who play high-risk rugby. He played the game in a manner that underscores the message that there is much to cherish and more staying power when one plays the game putting safety first.



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Joes and HFC win Under-20 basketball titles

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Due to the pandemic, there wasn’t much sporting activities in schools for two years and basketball players showed lot of enthusiasm as their sport was in full swing since April holidays. Sri Lanka Schools Basketball Association despite many challenges successfully conducted the All Island Under-20 basketball tournament at Sugathadasa Stadium this week. Girls and boys in ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ Divisions competed over a month and there were some thrilling encounters.St. Joseph’s College, Darley Road and Holy Family Convent, Bambalapitiya cruised to victory in the ‘A’ Division final. While St. Joseph’s beat Royal College in the boys’ final, HFC overcame Mahamaya College, Kandy. Both teams cruised to victory and were hardly troubled throughout the campaign. Interestingly, both teams are coached by the same individuals with Roshan Randima as Head Coach and Shane Daniel as his deputy. Their teams over the last decade or so have come up with consistent performances and have always remained among the top three.

St. Joseph’s took an early 24-09 lead in the first quarter and although Royal contained them in the second quarter conceding just seven points, they themselves could not score big. Both teams scored 16 points each in the third quarter and Royal matched St. Joseph’s skills in the final quarter but the damage done in the first quarter proved to be costly as Joes won by 16 points with the final score being 68-52.Mahamaya scored 14 points compared to HFC’s 16 in the first quarter in the girls’ final but from thereon HFC were unstoppable winning by a comfortable 31 points. The final score was 70-39.

In the boys’ category, St. Joseph’s captain Shehan Fernando was adjudged the Most Valuable Player while Keith Costa also from St. Joseph’s was declared the Best Defensive Player. Royal’s Yuganan Baskaran was named Best Offensive Plyaer. In the girls’ segment, Onela Dunuwille and Minoli Direkze of HFC emerged as Most Valuable Player and Best Defensive Player respectively. Chithera Samarakoon of Mahamaya was the Best Offensive Player. The tournament was sponsored by Gaja Group. The Group’s CEO Gayath Jayasinghe, a former Sri Lanka basketball player was the Chief Guest.

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Sri Lanka Athletics to seek private sector support to send team for World Junior Championships

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Ambagamuwa Central hurdler Dhanuka Dharshana has bettered the World Junior Championship qualifying standard on several occasions.

Junior Nationals Athletics Championships rescheduled to June 7-10

by Reemus Fernando

Sri Lanka Athletics will seek support from the private sector to meet the massive costs involved in sending all athletes reaching qualifying standards for the World Junior Championships which will be held from August 1-6 in Cali, Colombia.The track and field governing body, which met this week to reschedule the Junior National Championship which was postponed due to the curfew imposed on May 9, also discussed ways of finding funds to send all athletes who reach qualifying standards for the World Junior Championships.

Sri Lanka Athletics has been sending all athletes reaching qualifying standards for the World Junior events in recent years. But the massive cost of airfare in the midst of the prevaling economic crisis has made it difficult for the sport’s governing body to bear the full cost involved in sending a strong team.So far nine athletes have reached qualifying standards for the biennial event and there is opportunity for other athletes to reach entry standards for the event when the postponed Junior National Athletics Championship is held from June 7 to 10 at the Sugathadasa Stadium.

“There is a massive cost involved in sending athletes for the Cali event. With the increased airfare it will cost around 1.5 million rupees per athlete. If we opt to send only the top two athletes and those who can find funds by their own it will not be fair by the others who reach qualifying standards. Because of that we will seek private sector support to send the full team,” a senior official of Sri Lanka Athletics told The Island on Friday.

Earlier there were plans to send a pruned down team but a couple of athletes have obtained private sponsorships for their travel compelling athletics officials to find sponsorships for others as well.Of the nine athletes who have reached qualifying standards so far, four are from three schools in Colombo.  At least one athlete from outstations and an athlete from a school in Colombo have received the support of sponsors to meet their expenses during the meet.

“We will request leading private sector firms to support junior athletes. We will also seek the support of friendly sports federations like Sri Lanka Cricket to support us at this difficult moment,” said the official.

Tharushi Karunaratne (800m, 400m), Jayeshi Uththara (400m) and Amesha Hettiarachchi (400m hurdles) in the girls’ category and Sithum Jayasundara (400m), Dhanuka Dharshana (400m hurdles), Kaveesha Bandara (110m hurdles), Pasindu Malshan (triple jump), Hirusha Hashen (long jump) and Rumesh Tharanga  (javelin throw) in the boys’ category are the athletes who have reached qualifying standards for the Cali event. Incidentally, Tharushi Karunaratne and Sithum Jayasundara will be taking part in their second consecutive World Junior Championships after having represented the country at the last edition in Nairobi. Sri Lanka did well to reach the final in the mix relay in Nairobi where they were ranked fifth with a time of 3:26.39 secs.

Junior National Championships from June 7 to 10

The Junior National Athletics Championship which was postponed after the morning session on May 9 will commence from where it stopped on June 7. According to athletics officials the events which could not be completed on May 9 will be held on June 7 and there will not be any changes to the schedule of the next three days.

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Shoriful ruled out of SL Tests with wrist injury

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Bangladesh’s injury woes continue as pace bowler Shoriful Islam has now been ruled out of the remainder of the ongoing Test series against Sri Lanka due to a wrist injury. Shoriful is the latest addition to the hosts’ injury list as they earlier lost Taskin Ahmed (shoulder) and Mehedy Hasan (finger).

“Shoriful Islam had a contusion of the right hand while batting. After the fourth day’s play an X-ray was carried out which has revealed a fracture on the base of the 5th metacarpal bone,” physio Bayjedul Islam said in a statement on Thursday.

“Such injuries tend to take around three weeks to heal followed by a couple of week’s rehab. He will not be available to play for four to five weeks.”

Shoriful was retired out on Day 4 after pacer Kasun Rajitha’s short delivery hit him on the gloves. Bangladesh were forced to end their innings at 465 following his injury.

Cricbuzz has learnt that Shoriful is unlikely to be available for the Test series against West Indies as well. Bangladesh will leave on June 6 to take part in the full fledged tour of West Indies, comprising two Tests, three ODIs and as many T20Is.

Meanwhile, the BCB has retained the same squad for the second Test against Sri Lanka that will begin on May 23. The board opted to not name a replacement for Shoriful since they have a big squad to pick from.

“We did not take any replacement for Shoriful as we have got a big squad in hand,” BCB chief selector Minhajul Abedin told Cricbuzz. ‘’We have to see fitness of Hasan Mahmud (who was in discussion as a possible replacement of Shoriful) and though we are not considering him in this series, if he is fit we might pick him for the Bangladesh ‘A’ team tour of West Indies.”

Squad:

Mominul Haque (C), Tamim Iqbal, Mahmudul Hasan Joy, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Mushfiqur Rahim, Litton Kumar Das, Shakib Al Hasan, Nayeem Hasan, Taijul Islam, Syed Khaled Ahmed, Yasir Ali Chowdhury, Quazi Nurul Hasan Sohan, Musaddek Hossain, Ebadot Hossain Chowdhury, Shohidul Islam, Rezaur Rahman Raja.

( Cricbuzz)

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