By Marlon Dale Ferreira –
The saintly school from Bambalapitiya St. Peter’s College will always remain firstly as a top notch educational institute that uses sport as part of its extra curriculum to instill the building of character, embedding of deeply rooted values and discipline to its students. Historically the school has taken pride in the stellar job it always does, where the churning of young boys into fine astute men and releasing them to the world has been one of the school’s top most priorities.
However the recently concluded schools rugby season left gaping holes that continued to get even bigger as the season drew to a close. These gaping holes were the ones that the school authorities failed to plug in time, that eventually led to a plethora of unwanted twaddle, that finally appeared to have been fueled from within its system itself as the season ended. These issues seemed to be in retaliation for throwing out its former Coach Colin Denish and replacing him with Australian born Scottish Test Match rugby player/cum Coach Ben Mac Dougall.
The negative publicity that the school got through the latter part of the season should be sufficient for the authorities to take heed and learn a lesson or two themselves, as opposed to being entrusted the job of educating their very own kids through the means of sport.
This now completed season equally left many ardent fans and supporters of the school alike, with quizzical faces especially during certain games, where losing matches from seemingly winning positions, influenced flirting thoughts of matches being fixed.
*Photo courtesy The Nation
Similar words such as unexplainable, unfathomable, baffling, puzzling, perplexing, mystifying, strange and weird would have at some point in time crossed the minds of both its players and supporters alike too.
However the bewilderment that surrounded these thoughts could also be justified, as here were the seven – a – side champions, with their set of fleet footed runners losing matches at will and especially under rather mystifying circumstances.
If that was not the case, then seeking answers to questions such as its reliable Fly Half Sandesh Jayawickrama kicking zero kicks from eight attempts at goal, in their game against Royal College, to its captain Kevin Dixon not taking a crucial kickable match winning penalty against Isipathana, with a few minutes left on the clock and the sensational back to back season ending losses to both St.Thomas’ and Science Colleges’, would be tough to answer.
Was the under performance of the players harnessed by external forces along with the residue of support staff left behind by Denish that caused this mayhem? Or perhaps was it the bickering of the newly appointed Rugby Foundation board of members who assumed office mid way during the season causing more harm than good? Or was it the mentality of wining at all costs that back fired on them?
These are perhaps questions that the school’s authorities will have to dig deep to find answers for.
Some senior players were left shell shocked too, wondering as to why their very own team mates were committing basic error after error during the latter part of the season’s game, losing prized possession of the ball but moreover the games itself.
The question of matches lost on purpose by a set of players and influenced by external forces in their attempt to bring back their ousted Coach Colin Denish, will always be left unanswered.
But then again the benefit of the doubt needs to be given to the players as well, even though the ingredients are all available to cook up the most controversial of stews.
A disgruntled old boy summed it up best this way. “Our Fr. Rector Martin should have sacked the entire lot along with the ousting of Coach Denish and brought in a new set of support staff too. By keeping those who had and continue to have close ties with Denish, it was only a matter of time before they ended up ganging up together in retaliation of their buddy’s departure. There is a mafia that controls things from the side lines and our authorities have sadly failed in controlling those elements”.
A look at the concluded league season at a glance.
Game 1: Lost to St.Joseph’s College 10/17. Two tries scored. Captain Kevin Dixon carried off the field after a brilliant first half played by the Petes. Rugby dished out was like poetry in motion especially in the initial half.
Game 2: Beat Kingswood 13/12 in after Fly Half Sandesh Jayawickrama sailed a match winning kick to secure the side’s first league win.
Game 3: Beat Wesley College 45/22 with ease by scoring 8 tries.
Game 4: Lost to Isipathana 18/20. A crucial penalty from kicking distance with a few minutes left for the game to end was mysteriously not taken by skipper Kevin Dixon. The ball was kicked to touch instead. Some say that taking the kick and even missing it would have been the ideal decision, as the subsequent 22 yard drop out gives the ball back to the Petes.
Game 5: The seven a side champions record the season’s biggest win over C.W.W.Kannangara 107/5 running in a total of 17 tries.
Game 6: Beat Trinity 30/25 at Bambalapitiya by running down 6 tries.
Game 7: Lost to Royal 25/36. Perhaps this is where it all started to go pear shaped. Fly half and reliable place kicker Sandesh Jayawickrama kicks all five conversions, including 3 penalty kicks astray.
On the 11th of June 2015 the St.Peter’s Rugby Foundation appoints a new committee with Trinesh Fernando as its President.
Game 8: Lost to St. Thomas’ College 17/25. Even the Thomians were left shell shocked and amazed by this win.
Game 9: Lost to Science College 3/34. Science College is the side that is currently coached by Colin Denish the former Coach of St.Peter’s College. The Peterites played this game in a manner that was totally out of character compared to the way they competed during the rest of the season. They practically refused to score a single try in this game despite crossing the line of every opponent they played up until then. The only Peterite old boy who seemed happy with their loss was the Science College Coach Denish. He was witnessed gleaming from ear to ear and carried on the shoulders by his team’s supporters who were also observed jeering the Peterite authorities in front of the VIP area.
Colombo Telegraph did speak to Fr. Rector Martin who said “we did make a massive investment and we did not achieve the desired results. I had many old boys and parents breathing down my back and I had to make a call. No, no. I was not influenced by anyone to get rid of the Coach, but during our discussion it was decided by both parties that for the best interest of the school, that Coach Mac Dougall and us part ways. This was sadly reported erroneously by the media”.
When Colombo Telegraph contacted Ben Mac Dougall to get his version of the story, he sent in this email “I need to be 100% truthful so with my statement I want to clarify “Pressure from outside sources”. I felt that some boys did not handle the pressure and expectations from some old boys, parents and other external influences like personal friendships and divided loyalties to the former coach. There was even talk Colin had contacted some boys in the week leading up to the Science match. But let’s give the boys the benefit of the doubt and were not influenced.
I do not wish to implicate the boys in any way.
I did my best to protect and shield the players from these outside influences but ultimately they are children and some are not equipped with the mental skills to effectively deal with such issues. Even I have never experienced such situations like these and found it very challenging to try and counteract all the different forces at play.
Further to external I had internal pressure from within, there was a clear divide in the loyalty of those who were part of my back room team (Manager, Doctor, MIC) and some other influential old boys were all big supporters of the former coach Colin Dinesh and were reluctant for change.
Prior to the science match an issue with the College Doctor arose when he incorrectly diagnosed our captain Kevin Dixon with a hamstring tear contrary to other medical opinions (Physiotherapist/Trainer). An ultrasound scan was undertaken on my request and he was cleared of any such injury but by then Kevin was mentally down and as a result lost confidence and his form suffered badly.
In the end I felt these factors undermined the team’s performance and my ability to coach St Peters. So on Sunday the day after the Science College match I had a meeting with Father Rector at 3pm and officially I stepped down as Director of Rugby.
The Following messages and questions where conveyed to Father Rector at the meeting:
“As a coach I can accept mistakes and errors in judgment from players on the rugby field but a lack of effort and commitment I cannot forgive”.
“The Science match on the 20/6/2015 was vastly inconsistent with how the boys performed in the other matches during the season”.
“The Question of why did we perform to such a poor level in the Science College match will remain one of the great mysteries of my season coaching St. Peters”.
“I am baffled why we could not score single try against science yet we scored 5&6 tries against Royal and Trinity Colleges respectively in the matches leading into this game”.
If the exit of Coach Mac Dougall seemed controversial, then the entry of its new Coach Rajeev Perera and Trainer Mothilal Jayathilake did eventually write their own script of controversy too. Jayathilake who carries a blotched past as a Trainer, soon had players feeling sick in the gut, after a supplement was introduced to them during the week leading up to their quarter final game. It was also confirmed that this supplement was administered without the consent of the players’ parents.
However the school authorities in a last ditch effort at winning at all costs, did have their subsequent plans short lived. St.Peter’s did eventually lose to Science College yet again within the span of a week, but not before it was witnessed that the players’ and the support staff’s attitudes seemed different now, minus their foreign Coach. They died a more merciful and dignified death this time around losing by 22 points to 27.
Captain Kevin Dixon was observed running onto the field displaying a new found sense of enthusiasm that also showcased the gleaming smiles of the support staff seated on the bench. Players running behind Dixon were all given ‘high fives’ to boost their confidence by their skipper. They were so pumped up this time, that the very same jaded side of a week ago, not only crossed their opponent’s line once but on four occasions.
Firstly the boys were given a supplement to pump them up during the lead up to this game, something that the now resigned Coach Mac Dougall refrained from using during the season when he was their Coach.
However when Colombo Telegraph contacted the schools appointed Doctor Clive James to clarify this, he confirmed that the school authorities had specially brought in Mothilal Jayathilake an additional Trainer for the knock outs, who sought his permission to administer ‘NO Explode’ a nitric oxide performance enhancing supplement.
“In 2010, I banned this supplement from being administered to the school boys of St. Peter’s College, as then the content ‘caffeine’ found in the supplement fell under the ‘monitored’ category of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). This meant that it was neither cleared nor banned and I did not want to take any chances. However in this instance, I informed him that the said supplement was now cleared and it could be administered in small doses” said Dr.James.
When Dr. James was asked if this supplement has any other side effects and also if the parents’ permission was sought to administer this supplement to the players, he said “Yes, if taken on the long term it can certainly affect the kidneys and no, I am unaware if the trainer Mothilal Jayathilake had sought parental permission to administer it”.
Dr. James also confirmed that he was not present when the supplement was administered and also did not deny the fact that something else could have been introduced during his absence.
Fitness and Nutrition specialists have confirmed that no symptoms of vomiting are known when the supplement ‘NO Explode’ is usually taken unless something else is introduced.
However when Colombo Telegraph contacted a parent of one of the senior team’s players, it was highlighted that leading up to the knock outs, the boys were given only a whey protein which was clearly explained to the parents by a sports medicine doctor from the Kalubowila South Government Hospital. This was when a seminar was conducted on health, fitness and nutrition for the parents of players earlier.
“I found my boy vomiting in the toilet and when I inquired he said that prior to practices the trainer Mothilal Jayathilke had given them something to drink in order to boost their fitness levels. It was also strange to see my otherwise fit son sleeping for longer periods of time during the pre-knockout week” said the parent who did not wish to be named.
“Half a scoop each before practice, that’s what I instructed Jayathilake to give them” said Dr. James. “As long as it is taken in small dosages its fine. But if you abuse its intake on the long term you are bound to suffer renal / kidney problems” concluded the doctor.
Colombo Telegraph made many calls in its quest to find out what exactly led to this controversial season.
The controversies surrounding this season even had a sport website firstly uploaded comments of old boys under their covered match story and then strangely had them removed. On further examination it was revealed that the website belongs to the company that the current Rugby Foundation President Trinesh Fernando works for.
People spoken to:
Fr. Rec. Trevor Martin (Principal) – St. Peter’s College
Ben Mac Dougall (Rugby Coach -7’s and League)
Sunil Aponso (Rugby Manager) – Admitted that he had spoken to a reporter of a newspaper even though he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Trinesh Fernando (Present President Rugby Foundation) – Declined to comment but provided necessary telephone numbers of the relevant school authorities.
Nigel Forbes (Former President Rugby Foundation) – Declined to comment.
Troy Bartlett (Sports Secretary-SPC) – Declined to comment but advised to speak to Fr. Rector Trevor Martin.
Dr. Clive James (School appointed Doctor) – Admitted he advised Trainer Mothilal Jayathilake that the supplement ‘NO Explode’ is permitted by WADA .
* A host of other old boys and parents of players were spoken too, but they wished to remain anonymous.
It is now clear that somewhere along the season the words of the founding fathers’ of St. Peter’s, the motto of the school “Virtus Et Veritas” (Virtue and Truth) and its rugby motto “Our Game Our Passion Our Life” was knocked on and lost.
It is best hoped that the school’s authorities find these lost values soon, but most of all their lost dignity of this season and weed out the unwanted shrub in gearing themselves in time for the next season.
It is also wished that they would go back to the days where the sport of rugby was played both hard and clean and run by a set of authorities laden with integrity and honour.
Perhaps they could also seek the advice that their late Coach and famous son, Archibald Perera, who used to always say “play clean and hard rugby, by getting both arms around your man, push with the shoulder and pull with both arms and bring your man down clean. From the base of the scrum, give the ball out to the fourth man, one step and out and let him score.”
His explanation to the abbreviated word “Rugger” and how it should be played went like this – “Ruggered, Ugly, Double Guts, Entertainment & Recreation” – and how true the revered ‘Archie’ was !