Bertie Dias left an indelible mark in the history of SL rugby | Daily News

Bertie Dias left an indelible mark in the history of SL rugby

Bertie Dias
Bertie Dias

Colonel Bertie Dias was one of the finest sportsmen to come out of Trinity College in the 1950s. Bertie can be rated as one of the finest scrum-halves this school has produced.

Bertie was under the watchful eyes of Philip Buultjens at rugby. He had an illustrious career and left an indelible mark in the history of Sri Lanka rugby.

He was one of the finest ruggerites who made the rugby circle colourful and courageous as a player, referee, and coach. Under his coaching, Sri Lankan emerged number two in Asia in 1974.

Bertie excelled in both studies and sports while at School. He was a fine hockey player, boxer, and a top athlete during his time.

He won the coveted Trinity 'Lion' for rugger in 1950 along with H. L. Fernando and R. W. Tucker in the same year and won the first Hockey ‘Lion' with S. S. Bambaradeniya.

Some of his teammates were E. Rulach, C. S. Bambaradeniya, C. B. Halangoda, D. Ratwatte, L. Kdirgamar, S. S. Bambaradeniya, R. W. Tucker, M. Hermon, W. Wijarathne, C. N. Panabokke, D. Y. L. Pakustan, M. B. Ellepola, and R. B. Rodrigo.

In 1950, he played along with A. I. J. Madugalle, D. Ratwatte, R. W. Tucker, H. L. Fernando, V. Wijeratne, Kavan Rambukwella, L. Pilimatalawa, Lakshman Jayakody, M. S. Panditharathne, J. Shanmuganathan, B. Speldewinde, G. Tennakoon, J. Weerasekara, and the captain was S. S. Bambaradeniya.

Some of his hockey mates at school were S. S. Bambaradeniya, C. H. Meares, G. H. M. N. P. Elikawela, R. M. P. Kehelpannala, K. Palanoandy, S. M. Selvaratnam, M. P. Weerasinghe, D. Wickremasinghe, and R. R. Williams.

Today, there is a trophy presented in memory of him for the Trinity-Royal Past Pupils Hockey match.

While at the University of Ceylon, Bertie played rugby, cricket and hockey and also boxed for the Varsity and participated in athletics.

Having graduated, he taught at Trinity for a short period before joining the Army as an officer.

In the Army, too, he excelled at rugger and hockey and was instrumental in the promotion of sports. He gave his best for the Army team as a player, captain, coach, and official.

He first played club rugby for Kandy SC, later for Dimbulla, Dickoya MCC, Up-country, Havelock SC, Low Country, Sri Lanka Army, Defence Services, and Sri Lanka.

He was a fine coach, and perhaps, the best ever Trinity rugby team was the 1956 side that produced nine All-Ceylon 'caps' and two captains. The side was coached by Bertie.

That year, they beat Royal in both ‘legs’ of the Bradby Shield, S. Thomas', St. Joseph's, and St. Peter's, the only schools that were playing the game at that time.

As a rugby coach, Bertie became more popular. His first major role was as coach of the successful Up-country Provincial Rugby Team.

Bertie coached Kandy SC, Army SC, Sri Lanka Air Force SC, Dimbula ACC, Dickoya MCC, Havelock SC, CR & FC, Central Province RFU, Sri Lanka Schools, and Sri Lanka.

Bertie followed rugby coaches and referees’ assignments in the UK. There had been occasions when Bertie had folded his slacks and blown barefooted at matches when the appointed referee failed to turn up.

The year Bertie passed away, Kandy SC organised a seven-a-side rugby tournament, with teams like HNB Kandy, Ceylon Tobacco Leaf Division, Central Finance, Kurunagala RFC, Hill Club, Chilaw RFC, and Old Antonians.

This tournament was won by Central Finance led by Chandima Amadoru and for the first time in Kandy, a Ladies’ rugby game was played before the final, in which there were players like Sakunthala Perera, Duwonetha Dhanapala, Deborah Chinnaih, Ulla, Claudia Crozier, Sujeewa Malkanthi, Manori Samarakoon, Vasantha Yapa, and Sanella Wanigasekara.