Priyantha Ekanayake, Chief Executive Officer of Sri Lanka Rugby shared his views on how things began and what he plans to achieve throughout his tenure as CEO.

Having played rugby at the highest level in the country and even went on to play in the provincial tournament for Otago in New Zealand, alongside All-Blacks at that time “I went there as a player, didn’t have much of a clue about how things go, and i didn’t realise how tough the season was”

The coaching staff provided vital support helping me settle in and taking me through “right after landing. Next day we went to watch a match, and the two front rows went at each other after a collapsed scrum. The first thing I told my coach was, I doubt I’ll survive A division rugby, can I play in the B division? The coach didn’t take it well but he introduced me to the guys, mentioning the fact that we have got Asia’s best lineout jumper”

“Things were not easy, at my first training, after just 5 scrums I started vomiting. It made me think what was going on, it was -3. Once they contract players, they are given a chance. So I realized I have to do a lot more, so I trained double hard, putting in many hours, it helped me settle down to things”

Ekanayake mentions the main thing he learned about in New Zealand was self belief “It’s mainly a psychological factor than anything else. For me what I leant was self belief, if you believe in yourself, sky is the limit”

As he succeeds many others at the job, Priyatha has set his sights on getting three things in place before he leaves his office. Speaking to ThePapare.com,  “Yeah my predecessors have done their bit but I have set my sights on getting three things, A ground, office space and an academy. If we manage to get these three things, I’ll be a happy man when I leave”

His calling at schools sports began thanks to his brother’s sporting obsession, Priyantha states how his brothers obsession rubbed on him “My brother started sports before me, He played Cricket, Basketball, Athletics and Rugby. I also started playing all four sport, and I even went on to captain in all four”

“My ambition was to play for Kandy, even though they were losing quite bad, I knew this was a good move. That’s how it all began”

With rugby constantly changing and becoming ever so competitive, the CEO gave an insight on his vision on capturing talent from a young age, nurturing them to be great players “We have very limited resources at the national level, and in XV’s i’m not too sure how far we could go, But at 7’s the sky’s the limit, I believe we can win a medal at the Olympics or Asian Games or Commonwealth Games”

“The schools rugby is played on quite a big scale, but it’s been run by amateurish people. If you don’t develop the talent at that level, they aren’t going to be developed at the top level. So we certainly have the talent at the junior level”

“Sri Lanka Rugby Union and Schools will have to work together between the Sports Ministry and Education Ministry, to work together and develop the sport. So we are finding a mechanism to work hand in hand to develop the sport together”

Sri Lanka Rugby always wanted to work alongside Schools Rugby but due to various reasons negotiations crashed on countless occasions “Yeah there was a sponsorship negotiation going on but it fell apart. There is lack of professionalism, however the secretary of the Education Ministry and the Sports Ministry gets involved and there are lots of good things. So if we work together, the sky’s the limit. Then we can have few more clubs. Sri Lanka Rugby will have to step in and develop the talent from grassroots, contract them and start tours”

“Then create an Academy. We are working with the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Sports Ministry to get a place. If that works then the New Zealand people are willing to give us the expertise. So what we need is to set things up and continue with things. That’s what we are working on right now”

“We are having quite an aggressive plan and hope to produce 30,000 rugby players in the next three years”

Finally when questioned about exchange programs for our promising youngsters “We can, there are a lot of things to look at, we brought in a high performance coach, now our focus is on how we can elevate players from club level to international level. We lack a provincial tournament, we also have the same issue at schools and club levels. So we will first fix these few and then think about the future”