Trinity College Kandy is just one win away from a Schools league title that has eluded them for 30 long years on the back of some brilliant rugby dished out this season.
Lions from the hill capital are the longest uninterrupted rugby playing school in the country having taken up the sport in 1906 and boast of a history of over a century playing the oval shaped ball game. Although they have produced plenty of strong vibrant teams that have impressed, the schools’ rugby league title has been a thorn in their sides having only managed to secure the championship last in 1987.
After two disappointing seasons in the past two years where in the first they surrendered the coveted Brady shield and last year sharing the shield and finishing the league in the 6thplace, Rugby brains at Trinity decided to resolve back to the southern hemisphere for a coach who would be able to mold a championship outfit at Trinity. Lote Raikabula is the name.
Raikabula 6’4 feet Fijian born All Black came to the fore at the 2006 New Zealand International Sevens tournament where he made his debut for New Zealand on his home ground. A creative playmaker became a key clog in the All Blacks 7s outfit representing 60 tournaments and ending up in 20 tournament wining outfits. During his illustrious career Raikabula was part of two Commonwealth Gold winning teams and Four 7’s World series winning outfits. A classy finisher, he added his 100th try in 2013. While much has been documented about Lote’s heroics in the 7’s aspect, he is no stranger to the longer format of the game having represented Hawkes Bay and Manawatu in the Air New Zealand cup.
A personal trainer before taking the realm at Trinity, Raikabula is a strong believer of fitness being a major aspect in the style that he requires his team to execute. The work he has put in to Trinity’s 1st XV is quite evident at the way the team has been preforming this season. Despite playing only two games at home and having travel down to Colombo 6 times, the Trinitians have been able to showcase some fast open rugby minus the solitary loss to St.Peter’s when they had a bad day. Prior to the commencement of the season, Lote was happy about the hard work that the team had put in during the off season and claimed that “most of our games are down in Colombo. It will be hotter but the boys have worked really hard preseason and we got a good base going into the season ” This philosophy came good for the All Black as despite a few of the crucial players suffering injuries during the initial round he had the depth to call upon in order to maintain the high paced style of play Trinity has produced this season.
When queried about the difference in the way the supporters and well-wishers engaged with the sport in here and back in New Zealand, he billed that “back at home if you are not happy about the way you are playing specially the parents and the supporters, you keep it to yourself and then you share it around with your friends, but over here it’s quite full on and you get it right in your face. But its good, its part and parcel of the game and the passion here is at a way different level compared to what we get back home, especially for schools’ rugby.”
From the onset of taking over the position of head coach at Trinity, Raikabula was focused on the brand of rugby that he expects his team to produce on the field. He didn’t mince his words when he spoke to us at the beginning of the season stating that “I am not too focused on the result I’m more concerned and look forward to the way we do our thing and making sure it’s important that we play well. The results for me and for us is not even in our picture. The most important thing is making sure we play well, if we control that, usually the results take care of itself. My focus is making sure that the boys are doing their job right and playing well and overall enjoying playing footy rather than putting them under pressure that stops them from getting excited to play rugby”
No preparation however can prepare you for the pressure and the excitement that is experienced at the Bradby. Trinity have the services of quite a few senior men who have been in the situation but the stakes of the league title at hand is bound to add some extra pressure to the players. Raikabula who is no stranger to big games having himself been part of plenty of high intensity finals will be well aware of the psychological battle that his charges are to face.
Trinity this season has turned a lot of heads through the style of play that they have brought in to the schools rugby league. There has been a glimpse of the Fijian flair and the offloading antics that makes it difficult for the oppositions to contain the running outfit. Trinity forwards have been impressive getting themselves around the park with great improvement witnessed in their skill set as well. Trinity will be hoping for an extended performance from their forwards that would underline the marauding set of forwards that Royal poses.
Lote Raikabula in his maiden stint as a coach has managed to bring the southern hemisphere flavor to his protégés despite being on foreign soil. He has already marveled the Kandyan team managing to overcome the Isipathana hoodoo that plagued Trinity for five long years by winning against them and will be hoping to marshal his troops to clinch the Singer Schools league, a triumph that will be sweeter against their arch rivals at the esteemed Bradby shield.