Roger played rugby for two countries | Daily News

Roger played rugby for two countries

Roger Rodrigo
Roger Rodrigo

It is very rare to find a sportsman representing two countries in one particular sport. Even if he gets a chance, he has to be an extra ordinary player imbibing some enthralling skills. Roger Rodrigo was one of them who stood out locally and Internationally in rugby.

Roger started his rugby career at Isipathana College at the age of twelve in 1976 and was well known as ‘Roda’ in the rugby circles and continued handling the oval shaped ball until he left school. A man who was crazy over becoming a cynosure of all eyes in the game of rugby, strived hard from his younger days as he went on to captain the under 15, 17 and later played for college first fifteen team under Leslie de Silva leadership in 1981. Next year he played under the captaincy of Dilroy Fernando which remained as an unbeaten champion side in the school’s rugby arena.

Moreover, in the same year he toured Bangkok for the Asian School Rugby Tournament with the school’s team.

During his final school career in 1983, he was privileged to be appointed as the captain of the first fifteen team. Soon after he was offered this position he gained the opportunity to represent Havies in the knockout tournament. In 1984 he joined the Sri Lanka Police as Sub Inspector and started a new chapter in his career under the captaincy of Upali Vithanage. He was under the watchful eyes of coaches the late Daya Jayasundara and Anton Benedict went on to don the Police jersey until 1989.

During this period he had a marvelous opportunity to be associated with some great players which he rates as the ‘Golden era of his career’ as he enjoyed playing the game where their team remained an unbeaten team in all local tournaments. The performance there helped them tour Malaysia in the same year. Furthermore, with this outstanding performance he was called to the Sri Lankan sevens squad in 1985 and was selected to represent Sri Lanka at the Hong Kong Sevens in 1986. Additionally, he was chosen for the fifteen-side national squad for the Rugby Asiad.

Besides this he was also selected for the under 24 team tour to Taiwan. This ultimately became the beginning of his international assignments representing the country. Some of his tours were Hong Kong Sevens, tour of Wales in 1986, World Sevens Sydney in 1987 and thereafter the Dubai Sevens in 1988 . During his tour to Dubai, he was approached by the Dubai Exiles Club Chairman Robert Hughes and was offered a job opportunity to play for Dubai Exiles. In 1989 after completing club rugby in Sri Lanka, he decided to take the challenge and moved to the Middle East. In 1990 and 92 he was picked as the ‘Player of the Tournament’ at the Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens.

In the same year he was the only Asian to be selected to represent the Gulf squad for the Hong Kong Sevens, and he is the only Sri Lankan player to represent two countries at the Hong Kong Sevens. In 1993 the Arabian Gulf team represented the Gulf at the Amsterdam Sevens and continued playing for Dubai Exiles till 1999.

Thereafter he took over the Sri Lankan expats and formed the Lanka Lions Team there.

He took over coaching them and captained the side which consisted of a great bunch of young blood. While continuing training for several years Lanka Lions was the only Asian team in the Gulf region to participate in the Dubai Sevens tournament. With the performance the team was able to win several trophies including the ‘Kanja’ trophy,

Bowl and Plate championship at many Dubai Sevens tournaments. He concluded his rugby career after 25 years playing at the Dubai Sevens and continues to support the Lanka Lions Rugby team which still plays at the Sevens frequently. He was the younger brother of Ronald Rodrigo who was a great player who played for Havies, Air Force and Sri Lanka who was instrumental

in motivating him to take up rugby by following in his footsteps.

During his school career he played with some great yesteryear players who also represented Sri Lanka Dilroy Fernando, Aruna Udawalagedara, Nizam Jamaldeen, Leslie de Silva. Going back to the club rugby with his Police team there were so many people including Hafees Marso, Palitha,

Siriwardena, Hisham Abdeen Anuruddha Bowala Priyantha Ekanayake Chandrishan Perera Ajantha Samarakoon and Norman Silva and many more who played with him at club and at International level.

Rinette is his wife who is a housewife who has interests in reading, cooking and cake making.

He has two daughters Lauren and Leanne who plays basketball and rugby for the school. Currently he serves as a Sales Director in Sharjah.