Radio rage for Max Verstappen during Singapore Grand Prix qualifying – The Island

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by Harischandra Gunaratna

Former Sri Lanka rugby captain Lanil Tennakoon in an interview with The Island said he had to drive his BSA 650cc motorbike from Passara to Colombo and back nearly 450km to watch training for the National team.

He said he was to be in Longdon Place by 4.30pm for training and back to work in Passara to oversee the making and picking of tea the next morning.

Lanil who was attached to Gonakelle Estate in Passara had to endure the rigorous routine as his boss was a very strict administrator who did not support the sport and refused to release his Sinnadorai (assistant superintendent) for rugger practices even though it was at National level.

Recalling his childhood, Lanil said he inherited his love for the sport from his late father John Tennakoon who represented St. Anthony’s College Katugastota in boxing and cricket and later the police.

Lanil had to move from Trinity College Kandy to Kalutara Vidyalaya when he was nine years old as his father was appointed HQI of Kalutara South Police Station. He remembers playing with a rugby ball and kicking the ball inside the compound at the HQI quarters at Ferry Road, Kalutara North during the two years he was in Kalutara. After being readmitted to Trinity College, he religiously followed rugger practices but never reached the College’s first XV.

Captaining his home rugby team was the greatest achievement of his school years.

Lanil joins the select group of Trinitians who have donned the Sri Lanka jersey without representing the school. The others are Willie Ratnavale, Dr Tony de Sylva and YC Chang.

The beefy second rower said he was not the only Trinidadian to don the Sri Lanka jersey without representing the alma mater.

Lanil received his baptism at the rugby club after being chosen to play for the main planters club, the Dickoya Maskeliya Cricket Club team in the hills, managed by Bede Johnpullai in 1971 and went on to represent Dimbulla, Uva, Kandy SC , Havelocks and CH&FC. He also captained the Up Country XV against visiting foreign teams.

He was known for his jarring tackles and brilliant kicks and he was a regular in the national rugby 15s and 7s teams.

Lalin with his wife Sandra.

Lanil, a place kicker with a bull’s eye, has contributed his boot to many victories during his long rugby career and he celebrated his 50th birthday as a rugby player last year. His crowning glory came when he was named captain of Sri Lanka’s XVs and 7s in 1980. He captained Sri Lanka’s teams that year to Hong Kong Sevens and Rugby Asiad in Taiwan.

Many sports fans are unaware that Tennakoon was a fast and fiery bowler and represented the CCC in Daily News Trophy games. The team included former All-Ceylon cricket captain CI Guanasekera and former national cap Channa Gunasekera among others. He played cricket until the day when CH rugby coach Darley Ingelton saw him bowling with the pool players of Sri Lanka, including Duleep Mendis training on the CCC nets where he was to attend at rugger practices and read him the riot act and said to him, ‘Young man, you gotta choose either cricket or rugby’

Lanil Tennakoon the sports star married his sweetheart, former Good

Sheppered Convent, Kandy athlete Sandra Bertus and they have three children Devaka, Yoshini and Devshan, the eldest Devaka following in father’s footsteps is also a tea planter.

Tennakoon spent 5 ½ years in Mozambique and Rwanda imparting his expertise to plantation companies and now in his 60s continues his career as a tea planter at Powysland Estate in Dayagama.

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