Dia­log rugby league unleashed .... look out for CH&FC

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - SPORTS - By Naushad Amit

Promis­ing yet an­other 14 full weeks of ex­cite­ment, the Dia­log Rugby League 2018/ 19 kicked off this week­end. The first round, which be­gan on Fri­day will con­tinue for seven straight weeks and will come to an end on December 23 while the sec­ond round is set to be played through Jan­uary 4 to Fe­bru­ary 17 next year.

In ad­di­tion to the tra­di­tional two rounds, this time the Dia­log Rugby League will in­clude a Su­per Round, which will in­clude two semi-fi­nals each and a fi­nal each to de­ter­mine the Cup and Plate win­ners. The first round will in­clude 28 games with four games per week­end and 10 of them are to be played un­der lights.

The ti­tle hold­ers, Kandy Sports Club, who will be eye­ing for a back- to- back fifth ti­tle win, will be led by back divi­sion player Richard Dharma­pala. He takes over the lead­er­ship role from Gayan Weer­aratne, and will have the as­sis­tance of a fleet of ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paign­ers, who have made Kandy SC proud in the re­cent years.

The side is coached by its for­mer flanker Sean Wi­jesinghe, who will be as­sisted by for­mer stand­off Fazil Mar­ija, who re­tired from play­ing last sea­son. In ad­di­tion Kandy SC will open doors for six school leavers to make their Club Rugby de­but this sea­son. Among them are for­mer St. Anthony's Col­lege for­ward Mo­hamed Shabeer, for­mer Kingswood Col­lege prop Rash­mika Chan­draratne and four from Maliyadeva Col­lege Ku­rune­gala -- Lahiru Daulu­gala, Ishara Herath, Hi­malka Danan­jaya and Malitha Wi­je­sun­dera.

Vet­eran trainer and coach Mothilal Jay­athilleke will con­tinue as Head Coach of Navy Sports Club, who emerged run­ners-up last sea­son. As­sisted by for­mer Sailor Dev Anand, the side will come un­der the lead­er­ship of Thilina Weeras­inghe, who takes over the man­tel from Danushka Per­era. Much is ex­pected from Weeras­inghe, who be­came the high­est points scorer, with 130 points last sea­son. Among the ex­pe­ri­enced lot last year's Royal Col­lege back divi­sion player Mubeen Faleel will be the only fresher straight from school to join the Sailors.

Led by stand­off Niroshan Fer­nando, last sea­son's No.3 team, Have­locks Sports Club ex­pe­ri­enced a slight shakeup af­ter a mass ex­o­dus of its ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers prior to the be­gin­ning of the sea­son, but the Park Club is ever de­ter­mined to sus­tain its sta­tus with a blend of known names and fresh legs. Among the new en­trees to the Club level through Have­locks are for­mer S. Thomas' Col­lege back divi­sion player Chris­tian De Lile, last year's Royal Col­lege deputy skip­per Malee­sha Mad­ume­wan, St. Joseph's Col­lege winger Di­lan Kavinda and Wes­ley Col­lege cap­tain Dayan Sabar. With the ex­per­tise of the game's most shrewd tac­ti­cian, Sanath Mar­tis as Head Coach, the Havies could pose a threat to any op­po­nent who comes their way.

Flanker Yoshitha Ra­japaksa will lead the fully re­vamped CH&FC side, which comes un­der the watch­ful eyes of Head Coach Ron­nie Ibrahim and As­sis­tant Coach Di­nesh Ku­mara. The Mait­land Cres­cent club does not have talent straight from schools from last sea­son, but they are sure to have an army of top cam­paign­ers, who had shifted sides dur­ing the last cou­ple of years. If Kandy SC is to de­fend its ti­tle this sea­son, the big­gest threat is iden­ti­fied as CH& FC by rugby ex­perts. The side had a few dis­as­trous sea­sons in the re­cent years, but last sea­son they fin­ished fourth, and would be a def­i­nite con­tender for the crown this sea­son.

Much is ex­pected by the par­ing of Head Coach Nil­fer Ibrahim and his com­rade in arms for years, Anu­ranga Walpola, who took over CR&FC from the point the side fin­ished fifth over­all in the League last sea­son. Winger Kavindu Per­era takes over the cap­taincy from Shane Sam­ban­dap­pe­ruma this sea­son, as the side is de­ter­mined to fin­ish on top. The Red Shirts, may have lost few of its ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers over the past cou­ple of sea­sons, but also have man­aged to se­cure the ser­vices of a few known names as well as well known names from last year's school sea­son. Among them for­mer Royal Col­lege winger Janidu Dil­shan, St. Joseph's Col­lege winger Ge­munu Chethiya and Trin­ity Col­lege winger Vishwa Ra­naraja stand out. With a blend of ex­pe­ri­enced and youth, CR& FC could surely pro­duce the un­ex­pected mo­ments this sea­son.

Army Sports Club fin­ished sixth last sea­son, and have been quite im­pres­sive on the field, de­spite not fin­ish­ing much of their games vic­to­ri­ous. For years the Sol­diers have had the same old chal­lenge of raking in the tal­ented, due to their in­sti­tu­tional pro­ce­dures. But they have the priv­i­lege of get­ting the ser­vices of top coaches, who have been in­stru­men­tal in shap­ing up un­touched talent, into top fight­ers among the ex­pe­ri­enced.

This sea­son the side coached by the vet­eran in the trade, Ni­hal ' Viper' Gu­naratne, who will be as­sisted by Asanka Per­era. Chandima Upul, termed as one of the most gifted flankers in the re­cent times, will lead Army SC this sea­son af­ter Thusitha Se­nanayake's ten­ure as cap­tain ended last year.

Though Po­lice Sports Club fin­ished sev­enth last sea­son, they have been quite im­pres­sive as a unit on the field. They al­most beat cou­ple of top con­tenders last sea­son with a bunch of well tal­ented play­ers, but the Cops will be eye­ing for a top half fin­ish this sea­son. Fly half Chanaka Udara re­gained the cap­taincy of the side af­ter a lapse of a sea­son and takes over Po­lice SC from Jayanga Silva, who con­tin­ues his du­ties as hooker.

As last sea­son, Po­lice SC has man­aged to se­cure cou­ple of new talents straight from school -- for­mer St. Peter's Col­lege cen­tre Ruk­shan Madushanka and Zahira Col­lege prop Am­jad Fawmy. Shamly Nawaz con­tin­ues his role as the Head Coach with Asanga Ro­drigo as As­sis­tant Coach.

Cou­ple of years ago Air Force Sports Club made head­lines for the right rea­son, beat­ing four- time League cham­pi­ons Kandy SC in a cur­tain raiser game. But their glory did not last long and as a re­sult fin­ished off eighth, or the bot­tom of the ta­ble with­out much fan­fare. The Air­men have the po­ten­tial to pro­duce sur­prises and they have been suc­cess­ful on and off in the re­cent past. Their prime task this sea­son will be to pro­duce a few sur­prises that could earn them a slot in the top of the list.

To make that a re­al­ity, Air Force SC has re­cruited Fiji na­tional Fereti Vere­bula as its Head Coach while hooker Lahiru Ku­mara has been ap­pointed as cap­tain. Air Force may not have big names in their unit, but they surely do have a bunch of play­ers who are ever will­ing to make a dif­fer­ence.

The ti­tle hold­ers, Kandy Sports Club, who will be eye­ing for a backto-back fifth ti­tle win, will be led by back divi­sion player Richard Dharma­pala. He takes over the lead­er­ship role from Gayan Weer­aratne, and will have the as­sis­tance of a fleet of ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paign­ers, who have made Kandy SC proud in the re­cent years.

Kandy SC are the ti­tle hold­ers of Dia­log Rugby League

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