Army stalwart Asoka Jayalal (31), has been a vital part of the team both on and off the field. His rugby journey began late, after joining Army, without preliminary rugby education.
His rugby journey at Army began in 2004, after his regiment team became champions in the Inter Regiment Tournament “After our regiment team won in 2004, I had a target early on, first to play for the inter regiment team soon, Army first team and then Sri Lanka. That was the one thing I really wanted, very badly in life”
After joining the regiment team to practice with them, Asoka had a dream of wearing the regiment jersey “I had a huge liking to wear the Inter Regiment Jersey. I didn’t know much about rugby but I had the opportunity to learn from others who had played the game from school days and play along with them”
Hard work and dedication paid off as the lad’s dream of putting on the inter regiment jersey came true. Not so long after Army first team hon ours followed as he made the breakthrough in 2007, playing in the loose forwards.
“After getting to wear the inter regiment jersey, in 2006 I hit the ground running to play in the Army first team. Due to seniority and me, being a junior, I could manage just the Army B team. Like most others, I was not satisfied with just playing in the B team. I pushed harder, trained harder proving a point, making a statement for the Army first team place”
The hard work, blood sweat and tears paid off with the breakthrough following in 2007 “under the captaincy of Cap. Meepage I made my debut in 2007. Not in my current position though, i played in the loose forwards, however in the inter regiment games, I played in my usual prop position”
His progress was rapid and not so long from making his debut, Army coach Sanath Martis spotted his talents and skills, deciding to switch Jayalal to a more suited position “coach in 2007, coach Martis, told me to play hooker, play in the front row. I have never played in that position before but knowing how good a coach Martis sir is, I obliged and it became a great success”
The big forward continued to impress in the years to follow and no sooner in 2012 his dream of representing Sri Lanka came true. However due to an injury, even though he made the squad, he had to sit out. “In 2012 all my hard work paid off, I was selected as the best inter regiment player. All of this contributed towards my selection in the Sri Lankan team but due to an injury, i unfortunately had to sit out”
The injury did not bring the big man down, as he recuperated, re-gathered his act and was selected in the years to follow “I did not let my injury get the better out of me, I came back hard and was selected the following year. From then on I started in 2013, 2014 and 2015, the glory followed”
Injury, been a part and parcel of the game, the big man had his 2016 season cut short, yet again due to injury “2016 again, I was struck down with injury. Was a hard passage in my life, with age catching up as well, but still I came out harder and stronger and managed to get selected in 2017 aged 31”
Talking about memories on tour, he recalls “The tour to Japan, the huge defeat taught me a lot. That was a big experience for me, they scored more than a century, but one thing I learned is that, no matter how big or how small you are, if you put up a good fight, you can win”
The dream was one that took root years ago, while watching a rugby match back in his home town (Anuradhapurua), on his way back home from classes. As he recalled “it all began back then, in my home town, while I was returning back from classes. I watched a game. I didn’t know who played or how they played, but the seed was planted back then. With no preliminary rugby education, coming to Army and seeing my dreams come true, it really is amazing”
Club rugby too, has created many lovely memories “2012, was the best year in my rugby career, we played some of the best rugby we have ever played, that year. We lost in very close games but the work effort, and all we put in that year, it was great”
Speaking about life after rugby, the big man says “I like to do a bit of referring, but more than that, would like to coach, I am laying the platform for it, so I am sure I can make that dream come true as well”