Hemantha Yatawara was a top class ruggerite, athlete and hockey player | Daily News


Hemantha Yatawara was a top class ruggerite, athlete and hockey player

Hemantha Yatawara
Hemantha Yatawara

The outstation schools played a pivotal role, especially in the Central Province by producing some quality players with a sound educational background. Hemantha Yatawara is no stranger to that category who was a robust player who engaged in several sports while reaching the pinnacle in the game of rugby.

Hemantha Yatawara popularly known as ‘Yatta’ in the sporting circles hails from a family of six brothers and a sister. His father B.D.Yatawara was a former Sri Rahulian while mother Leela Dissanayake studied at Poramadulla Central Hanguranketha. Both his parents have stood as a pillar of strength in supporting him and Saman the elder and Udaya the younger brother throughout their sporting career from the childhood days, even though they were not from a sporting background. They were especially very supportive by feeding them with hygienic food which was required to engage in sporting events, which ultimately became a morale booster for them to compete in sports.

He started his schooling at Dharmaraja College, Kandy and was enthusiastic in participating in sports there. When he was in grade five became the under-12 high jump champion which became the turning point in his sporting career.

His eldest brother studied at St. Sylvester’s College, Kandy was a top athlete and a cadet while another two brothers studied at Vidyartha College. He along with brothers Saman and Udaya played in the first XV team in 1980 under his captaincy, which was a unique achievement representing Dharmaraja College. His only sister studied at Sri Pushpadana Balika, Kandy and turned out to be a good Karate player.

He has represented Dharmaraja College in Hockey, Athletics and Rugby where he captained all three games. While excelling in sports at College, was chosen to compete in the Sri Lanka Schools Athletic team in Javelin throw event. He later participated at the Indo-Ceylon Athletic meet held in Agra, India in 1980. The Lankan contingent was captained by Ana Wickramasinghe, a former Trinitian athlete. The other athletes in that contingent were Mega and Deepika Rodrigo from Anuradhapura Central, Shiromini Gunathilaka from Holy Family Convent, Colombo Prasanna Jayasekara and Palihakkara from Ananda College, Colombo, Merelyn Fernando from Holy Family Convent, Colombo and Indraratne brothers Athula and Asela from Royal College, Colombo

He also represented Sri Lanka Schools Hockey team in 1979 and 1980 leading the Sri Lanka school’s whites team. He was adjudged the most outstanding sportsman of Dharmaraja College in 1979 and 1980 and also bagged the College “Dagoba” for Rugby, Hockey and Athletics, which still remains a record , achieved by a student in all three sports.

His rugby career at college started in1978 and went on to don the jersey till 1980, where he captained in 1980, under the coaching of former Trinitian and Sri Lankan legend Lanil Tennekoon. While he was playing for the school’s team, Kandy Sports Club invited him to play for the club as a school boy in his dual role as center three quarter and winger. He played along with some brilliant players like Irwin Howie, Nimal Malagamuwa,Athula Manchanayaks, Sunil Munasinghe, Viper Gunaratne and Selwyn Bulathsinhala

Soon after he left school he joined the Sri Lanka Police as a Sub Inspector in 1982. He was included in the Rugby team and played for them from 1982 to 1994 while captaining the Police team in 1991 which emerged unbeaten A Division league champions and bagged the Clifford Cup by edging out CH and FC 13-11 in the final.

In 1989 Police won the R.Premadasa Trophy defeating CR and FC 12- 3 in the final and he was adjudged the best Player. He also represented the Sri Lanka Police hockey team too. He started to play for the Police team as a makeshift fullback before the kicking legend late Charles Wijewardena gave away this position at the time of retirement.

He played along with Nimal Lewke, Judy Preena, Rohan Gunaratne, Upali Vithanage, Hafees Marso, Sunil Sahabandu, Dharmakeerthi, Tuan Hajireen, Ajantha Samarakoon, Nazeeb, Chandrapalan, Leslie de Silva, Saman Kotalawala, Asoka Jayasena, Norman Silva Palitha Siriwardana, Sudath Sampath, Roger Rodrigo, Nizam Jamaldeen, Neranjan Abeywardena Hector, Gunatilleke Damith Jayawardena and Aruna de Silva,

His tenure at Sri Lanka Rugby team was from 1985 to 1994 representing in both versions the fifteen a side and 7’s arena. In 1985, he launched his National career by touring Far East under the captaincy of Rohan Gunaratne coached by Ajith Abeyratne and Managed by Malik Samarawickraman, which was one of the most successful tours he has ever had. Since then he was a regular member of the Sri Lanka team at Rugby Asiad’s, Hong Kong 7s, Dubai 7’s and many other tournaments. After his early retirement from Police in 1994, he opted to rejoin his old club Kandy Sports Club(KSC) and played in the 1994 and 1995 season. In the 1996 and 97 season he assisted KSC as their assistant coach where Nimal Lewke was head coach. Under his coaching, KSC team became triple champions under the captaincy of Lasantha Wijesuriya in 1997.

Then he was appointed as Director Tournament for Singer Sri Lankan Airlines International Rugby 7’s from 2003 to 2005. He was a National Rugby selector’in 2002 and 2005. He coached Dharmaraja College, Kandy and Trinity College, Kandy first XV rugby teams He qualified as a level one rugby coach and is Currently serving as a Citing Commissioner with SLR.

His wife Sherina, a housewife was a great rugby enthusiast and stood by him in ups and downs in his life. His son Nimesh is a former Trinity first XV player and daughter Hesheni is employed in the Stock Market.