By A Special Sports Correspondent
Nigel Ratwatte seeing a spectator stand coming up in his name at Kandy Sports Club (KSC) can consider it as a once in a life time achievement. Before him there were legends in the sport like Denzil Kobbekaduwa, Lasantha Wijesuriya, Priyantha Ekanayake, Indrajith Bandaranayake, Sean Wijesinghe, Nalaka Weerakkody and Fazil Marija who were bestowed with the same honour. But with Nigel this honour was bestowed on him when he is still active and playing the best rugby in his life.
Generally, these honours come your way when you hang up your boots and get into sort administration. With maturity and experience such a title adds to the bio data of a person and doesn’t necessarily become a burden to you. It’s interesting to see how young Nigel handles attention when shoved under the limelight.
KSC is a club which has produced giants in the sport of rugby union. The rugby culture up in the Central Hills is overwhelming and fans can be unforgiving if a player has an off day. And when you have a stand in your name there is so much to live for and play for; in terms of maintaining standards. Nigel has to be at his brilliant best at all times; and it’s so hard to be the playmaker of a side when almost all recruits have the potential to play the role of match winner.
Nigel had his initial education at Trinity College Kandy and even captained his school’s under 13 side at rugby. But his family moved abroad and he had no choice, but to migrate with them; going to countries like Mauritius and South Africa. In both these countries he continued his rugby. For the record Nigel has a brother called Damien who also played both school and club rugby.
On his return to Sri Lanka he had stints with Upcountry Lions and Ceylonese Rugby & Football Club (CR&FC) before crossing over to KSC. At the Nittawela Club he enjoys the company of Tharinda Ratwatte-his cousin- who is shaping up well and showing the potential to be one of the best back division players this country has ever produced. Nigel plays as fly half and combines with Tharinda, who plays as first centre. There is always magic to watch when these two combine and produce a try-scoring move.
Nigel captained KSC in the seasons 2020/21 and 2021/22. He is also a handy place kicker and solid in defence. But of late Tharinda has been so accurate with his spot kicks that the club’s coaching team has stuck with Tharanda in the kicking department. Rugby is a team game and there is no room for any player who tries be bigger than the game. But it’s always good to have healthy competition between players because that promotes progression or player development. Right now Tharinda stands tall with his performances and has dwarfed other players who are also playing in the domestic league as centre three quarter. There might a school of thought within the rugby fraternity which promotes the thought that Tharinda is a better player than Nigel. Tharinda was in a class of his own in the crucial game against CR&FC excelling in all departments, but Nigel too was up to the task and had the honour of scoring a vital try in this key fixture.
The good thing about these two players is that they have made themselves available for national duty. The last time they both made a tour together in the form of a national assignment was for the Commonwealth Games in England last season. They were members of the national ‘Rugby Sevens’ side which was led by Srinath Sooriyabandara, who is also a member of KSC.
It’s interesting to see where Nigel takes his game from here. He has captained KSC twice and done his part for the national side. At age 33 he has accomplished so much. One of the best things about the player is that none of these achievements has gone to his ‘head’. The Sri Lankan rugby fraternity enjoys the company of such a humble player!