One can hardly imagine how someone like Thilina Wijesinghe, a quiet man who always has a wide smile on his face, could play Rugby, the game often referred to as the Hooligans’ game. For the people who know him well, he’s the soft spoken, reserved guy in the group who has a big passion for the oval ball game.
He’s also someone who is regularly seen wandering the busy streets of Kandy together with his friends and can nearly always be found at the Lake View Park of Dharmaraja College, playing tap rugby late into the evening until the ball can barely be seen.
At 5 8’ feet and 79KG’s in weight, he is a mobile running full back but in addition to this he does possess the ability to land precise, booming territorial kicks to get his team out of danger, attacking the line when necessary. Although he has made the full back position his own, particularly in the Kandy jersey, he could also be a handful at Scrum half, Fly half and the Wing three positions.
He started his rugby at a very small age at Dharmaraja College Kandy. Having learnt his basics under coaches C.S. Ekanayaka, Mr.Kasthuriarachchi and Walter sir, he was awarded a Dagoba (the most coveted award Dharmaraja College has to offer) and went on to become a 3rd year coloursman in Rugby as well.
Not the biggest guy on the park, he started off as a scrum half but later developed into a fine fly half before finally ending up at the fullback position. At the age of 16 he made the decision to switch to football in which he excelled and in 2008 Thilina went on to captain the U16 Sri Lanka football team following his older brother’s footsteps.
In the year 2012 he was yet again summoned to rugby practices by the coach and made to wear the number 15 jersey. What followed was almost like a dream. In his first tournament back, Thilina and his teammates won the Schools 7s Championships in 2012, surprising quite a few people and some of the big names to clinch the title. Later in the season the team won the B Division title and in the following year they thrilled one and all, bringing home the Singer Schools’ Rugby League.
“I was supported immensely by my family specially my brother, he was the one who said that I should quit Football for rugby and I’m really grateful that I did. Everyone in the school supported me the teachers asked us to come to their homes after practices to teach us the lessons we missed and that helped me a lot. The school provided everything we needed once we started our campaigns and I thank each and every one who helped me get to where I am today.”
Thilina was the top points scorer for his college and in the tournament as a whole. The fantastic season threw him into the spotlight and a call-up to the national junior squad followed. However, Thilina, quite surprisingly opted out in order to pursue his studies.
Things didn’t start off well however as having played his first match against CH&FC, he sprained his ankle and was out for the rest of the season. His comeback season was the most recently concluded 2016/2017 season where he was able to cement his position at Full back and as the place kicker for the Champions Kandy Sports Club. He scored 118 points (1T, 37C, 10P, 3DG) in the concluded season and made a phenomenal impact with his kicking and attacking play.
Thilina got his maiden call-up to the National XVs set-up during the past month and made an impact in his very 1st game at the Asia Rugby Championships, slotting through 4 crucial penalties and a conversion during the Tuskers’ 1st game against the Philippines which Sri Lanka went on to win 24 -13.
The 23 year old now has his sights on making the national No. 15 jersey his own and if recent performances are a guide, he may well do so in the near future.