The Dialog Schools Rugby League 2023 is just a few days away from kick-off. Let’s take a look at who is in charge of each school in the top tier this year.
First, we’ll look at the Segment 1A coaches.
Isipathana College – Saliya Kumara
The man behind the League winning team last year, Saliya Kumara is set guide Isipathana College in their bid to go back-to-back. Former Sri Lanka and Kandy SC player, Kumara, in his 1st season as the Head Coach, broke the dominance of Royal College in the School Rugby circuit by helping the Green Machine lift the League Trophy and the Knockout Trophy in style last year.
Kumara built an impressive team that outclassed all the other top tier teams last year. This season, he already has silverware to show, after Isipathana took home the U20 All Island Elite Sevens Championship, beating St Peter’s College in the final earlier this year.
Kumara will be determined to continue the good run and add more silverware to the already crowded trophy cabinet at Isipathana.
St. Joseph’s College – Nilfer Ibrahim
Nilfer Ibrahim returns for another year at the helm of St. Joseph’s College this season. Under his guidance, the boys from Darley Road have seen some success, having won their first President’s Trophy back in 2018.
After leaving the Schools Rugby coaching circuit for a couple of years, Ibrahim returned to Darley Road last year and managed to draw on all his experience to help a somewhat young team finish as runners-up in the League. They tried their hardest but could only manage a runner-up finish in the knockout competition as well.
The Josephians didn’t have much luck in both the CR&FC Centenary Sevens competition and the U20 All Island Elite Sevens Tournament earlier this year, but their strength remains in their big, burly forwards who are sure to play a huge role this season as Ibrahim and the Joes push to summit the Schools Rugby circuit.
Wesley College – Henry Terrance
Former Sri Lanka forward Henry Terrence is back where he started as a junior rugby player back in the early 2000’s, heading his alma mater at Campbell Park.
The Double Blues had a decent season last year, but the expectations are higher this time around with some promising talent in their ranks. Henry would seem like the ideal man to bring them success as he was part of the coaching staff that oversaw their President’s Trophy triumph back in 2013.
S. Thomas’ College – Shamlie Nawaz
Shamlie Nawaz will continue to head the Coaching Staff at ‘The School by the Sea’ in 2023 as well having taken up the spot in 2018. Before joining S. Thomas’, he had a massively successful stint at Zahira College, Maradana where he managed to advance Zahira to A the division and compete in the topflight.
Over the past few years at Mount Lavinia, Nawaz was able to mould strong teams, but the Thomians had a below par season last year.
S. Thomas’ will hope that playing again at big club grounds will give them an added advantage which in turn will produce an improved performance this year. That will be the focus point for Nawaz.
St. Anthony’s College – Srinath Sooriyabandara
Srinath Sooriyabandara is no stranger to the Sri Lanka Rugby Community. In the twilight of his playing career, ‘Soori’ as he is fondly known, has now set his sights on the coaching aspect, having taking over the duties of Head Coach at St. Anthony’s College.
After a disappointing season last year, Soori will have his work cut out this season to bring the Antonians back to their best. Expect the Eagles’ backline to produce some razzle-dazzle courtesy of Sooriyabandara’s expertise.
Kingswood College – Malith Hettiarachchi
Former Kingswood rugby captain Malith Hettiarachchi is at the helm this year for the Randles Hills team. He led his school to a President’s Trophy win in 2001 and later went on to play for Kandy SC and CR&FC. He represented the national side from 2002 to 2009.
Also, notably, he was one of the two from Kandy Schools to represent the Sri Lanka Youth outfit at the Youth Rugby World Cup, which took place in Chile in 2001. He has been with Kingswood as part of the coaching staff over the last three years but this year there’s added responsibility to turn the tables and produce some success at Kingswood.
D. S. Senanayake College – Asela Deshapriya
Having played his rugby at CWW Kannangara, Asela Deshapriya is slowly making a name for himself as a potent coach in the school’s rugby circuit. He started his coaching career at Dudley Senanayake College before taking over the Head Coach role at his alma mater. He was handling Junior Rugby at D.S Senanayake before moving through a couple more Colombo schools as a coach.
Before taking the top job at D.S Senanayake College in 2019, Deshapriya was in-charge of Royal College U16 and U18 teams. In 2017, under Deshapriya’s guidance, Royal College U16 team was crowned All-Island Champions. Having been promoted to the top league this year, expect Deshapriya to motivate his troops for an extended and successful run amongst the big rugby-playing schools.
Await Part II of this ‘Get to know your Dialog Schools Rugby League 2023 Coaches’ segment on ThePapare.com.