|Michael Jayasekara was a real star on the rugby field
Born in Dehiwala as the third member of a family of four, Michael had been one of those kids who couldnt resist the temptation of being outside the house and play all day. He chose sports to books during his school days which he spent at two leading academic institutions, St.Peters and S.Thomas College Mount Lavinia. The sporting activities in these schools were like an assortment of chocolates laid in front of a hungry kid. Michael tried most of them. Though he bagged a gold medal in hurdles at the public schools athletics championships his favourite sport at school remained as cricket. Michael also excelled in rugby as a schoolboy, initially turning out for the St.Peters College First XV team at the age of 15. Luck was with Michael when at St.Peters as he earned a place in the Big Match XI when one of the regulars fell sick on the day of the match. He joined S.Thomas College the next year and played in the Battle of the Blues" cricket encounter for two years. Reminiscing the different experiences he had in both schools Michael had this to say, "At S.Thomas children have a little bit more freedom,". He said that he had the rare honour of having breakfast with the Warden on the day of the Royal-Thomian, a privilege only the cricketers at S.Thomas enjoy.
Michael dazzled with both bat and ball as a schoolboy cricketer and earned a place in the schools under 19 team which toured Jaffna. Michael had the honour of being declared Man of the Match in this fixture. Some of the well known players who Michael played along with in this under 19 Schools XI were Ranjan Madugalle, Hemantha Devapriya, Saliya Ahangama and Ishak Shahabdeen.
Michael had little or no plans as to what he wanted to do after finishing school. His father, a radio officer by profession, thought that the Navy was the ideal place to discipline Michael. However Michael ended up by taking up a course in marine engineering and had his apprenticeship at Brown and Company. During the four years he spent learning the trade he turned out for Havelocks Sports Club. He remembered how the Managing Director of Brown and Company, D.K. Mistry, became a father figure to him, especially after his fathers death.
He played his best rugby from 1977 to 1981 and was an automatic choice for the national side. "I wanted to be the best in whatever I chose. And I hated to be in a losing side. I made my debut for Sri Lanka when I was 18 years old," said Michael. The rugby sensation who emerged in the late 70s sadly hung up his boots at the age of 22, his rugby career with the national side spanning just four short years. During his career he said that he admired players like Didacus de Almeida, Dan and Jeff Ratnam, Glen Vanlangenberg, Jagath Fernando, Mohan Sahayam, Reggie Bartholameusz for being able to create something out of nothing. "I must take this opportunity to thank my coaches Archibald Perera, Quintin Israel and Jagath Fernando for showing me the way in rugby," said Michael.
He quit rugby to start sailing which he did for 15 long years. Michael said marrying his wife Starline helped him to have a plan in life. Termed wild at one time Michael began to change as a person after his marriage. However it had been on a ship that he realised that it was up to an individual to shape his or her destiny. "I suddenly realised this and then I decided to catch up on my missed education. I somehow managed both my studies and work when I was in England and Australia. I was the quickest in my batch to finish studying. When I finished my studies I had a Chief Engineers Certificate of Competency, an equivalent to a BSc," said Michael.
Michael is now involved with rugby at Havelocks Sports Club, he is also the president of the club. He is a regular at matches and has seen several changes that have been made to the rules of the game. Asked whether he would still have played the game and enjoyed it if these changes took place when he played Michael answered saying yes.
The souvenir put out by the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union for inaugural Jaguar Sevens Inter-club Tournament had this to say about Michael, " A generation was influenced to play rugby, by watching this outstanding center three quarter who was a real star on the field. He thrilled fans with his explosive running, and together with P.L.Munsasinghe, Jayasekera created some of the most outstanding three quarter play seen in this country in the last 25 years. It is safe to state that no player since, has been able to match the style, grace, speed, strength and defence he possessed as center,".
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