Baptist top class ruggerite and coach | Daily News


Baptist top class ruggerite and coach

Bryan Baptist
Bryan Baptist

A person to prosper in life, in any field has to be influenced and guided by someone in life to reach the pinnacle, in that particular segment. Bryan Baptist one of the greatest ruggerites Sri Lanka has ever produced played a pivotal role in developing the game in the country as a player, coach and as an administrator.

Bryan was encouraged by a few school mates at Royal College, Colombo who said that “You are strong and have so much of energy, , why don’t you play rugger” to him about six decades ago. He had never seen a rugger match and was taken by two classmates to witness a club match at the Race Course involving CH and FC. The game was so, physical which stunned him, when a player was tackled on the touch line close to him. Subsequently, this became the turning point in his life, where he decided to engage in handling the oval shaped ball and attended practices at the Varsity grounds. His first coach was Mahesh Rodrigo who laid the foundation to mould him as a top class player

He started to scrum down as a number eight in the under-17 team and gradually shifted to bind as a Prop forward in the first XV team. He was later changed to his previous position as number eight by the coach and went on to compete in three Bradby Shield games for Royal for three years from 1964 to 1966, while also representing the Colombo Schools team.

After leaving Royal College completing the A/L examination, he met Mahesh Rodrigo his mentor in Rugby to seek his advice in joining CR and FC to continue his club rugby career. His advice to him was “Bryan, you are a good and upcoming promising player. You should join a club playing ‘A’ division rugby. CR have Eric Roles, Hiranjan Perera, Sari and Tony Sylva. Hence, CH will be an ideal place for you since Lorenz Pereira is there.” On his advice he joined CH and Neville Leefe was the first coach. He rates Mahesh Rodrigo and Neville Leefe as two of the outstanding coaches in his career, who were instrumental in teaching him a lot on the game. Incidentally, he joined John Keells and worked as a Tea Taster for a decade including gaining experience, working for three years in Bangladesh in Tea industry while coaching the Fuzerat Cadet College there in Rugby. He was the Managing Director of two of the leading tea companies while being the Deputy Chairman of another firm in Sri Lanka. He is presently a Senior Consultant at Mercantile Tea Brokers in his record 54 years in the tea industry. He launched his Club career by playing in the ‘Captain’s’ game against the Havelock’s, which earned him a place in the CH first XV side. He was a robust player playing hard and clean. In his second year at CH the coach Leefe asked him to lead the pack. Fuard, one of the crack wing forwards who was senior to him paved the away and assured him the much needed support. They also were coached by Darley Ingleton, Geoff Weinman and Archibald Perera from time to time. He likes to recall his memory playing with some foreign players like Mike Davies, Rick Walley, Bob Dewar, Mike Hauke, John Hemsworth (Prop), who was accused by his opposing Prop from Havies for biting.

Some of his CH colleagues who played throughout the years were Lorenz Pereira, Tyronne Fryer, John Burrows, Dave Mcall, Carl Fernando, Maurice Marrinon, Bogah Gunasekera Tony Masilamani, Lucky Chickera, Azees (One of the strongest Props in Sri Lanka), Noel Brohier, Y.C. Chang, Nizar, Rodney Paternott, Hemish Paternott, Kumar Bastianpillai,Senaka Bowala. the Hamdoons. Omar Sheriff, Darrel Wimalaratne, Brian Peiris, Miftha Mohideen, Timothy Lazarus, Sharky Jayawardene, Shane Dullewa, Lanil Tennekoon, Stephen Nugara .

Bryan believes in Discipline and says that it is vital for the success of any team. He captained the CH for two years (1971 and 1973. He later coached them while assisting Tony Amit. He has many memorable years playing for CH. Due to limited overseas tournaments, he had the privilege of captaining the President’s XV team against the visiting Australian Emus, Paris University also playing against the Joint Services, Singapore. He took over coaching Royal one year later opted to quit and coached the Navy team which he certainly enjoyed.

When he coached the Navy for three years, they had not played rugby for about five years due to the outbreak of the war. After his take over in the first round game (in his second year of coaching) the CH beat them 55 - 3 at the Army grounds. But he was determined to create an upset in the second round match played at the CH. He deployed a ploy on the weakness of CH team, which they executed perfectly to win the game 9 -3, which was a sensational win for Navy. In his final year with the Navy, he was successful in bringing both the first XV and the second XV teams into the finals of the Clifford Cup, in which Navy led by Parakrama Samaraweera lost to CR by a narrow margin of 3 points to 6.The sailors were rewarded when three of their players Lal Wijesiri P G Mahindaratne and Hilmy Saheed were picked for the Sri Lanka team for the tour of Hong Kong and Taiwan

Baptist represented Sri Lanka with distinction and played in the Rugby Asiad in 1974, led by Indrajith Coomaraswamy, where they were Runners-up to Japan 6=44 under Bertie Dias’coaching. He also contributed as the manager of the National squad to the Asian Games in Busan, South Korea in 2002 where George Simpkin was the Coach. He also Managed the National team to the Rugby Asiad in 2002 in Bangkok and to Singapore 7’s with Dr. Maiya Gunasekera as coach.

He also served on the Sri Lanka Rugby selection committee under Jayantissa Ratwatte as Chairman. He was the Chairman of the SLRFU Disciplinary Committee for a few years. Tea, Rugby and Religion (being a devout Christian) were three areas he has spent a lot of his time. At present he engages himself in Tea, Rugby and Hockey. Dennis Rosayro, a legend in the Hockey World, has trained him to get involved in Mercantile Hockey, which he happily obliged, serving the association for 35 years. At present he is the Patron of the Mercantile Hockey Association. He has two brothers and a sister His father Egerton Baptist was a well known author who has written many books on Buddhism and his mother is Hyacinth He has one daughter Lara