Thomians honour Quentin Israel


by Sharm de Alwis

Thomians know the value of gratitude and of loyalty. The Toronto Chapter has initiated the next Rugby 7s to be played for the Quentin Israel Memorial Trophy.

Equipped with a Level Two certificate from the Coaching Council of Brisbane, Australia, Quentin had his first period of coaching at St Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia where he took over from Percy Perera in 1969.

In a remarkable run of success spanning 25 years he once won 43 games on the trot. The grateful Old Boys of the school had sent him on two World Cup tours and one long jaunt to Australia.

Of the legion of splendid Thomian ruggerites he coached, some have been P.L.Munasinghe, Michael Jayasekera of whom Gama Fernando has said "he was the best I have coached but then he was gift wrapped and delivered to me by Quentin Israel", Chrysantha Perera who was in 1963 the first U17 captain that Quentin coached, Rajpal Samarasinghe, Rengannathan, Shane Pinder, Shanaka de Livera and brothers Savantha and Chariya de Saram.

The eloquent eulogy that Chrysantha Perera delivered as Quentin’s mortal remains lay in state at the Trinity chapel encapsulated the mentor’s achievements and still reverberates in every recess of our souls.

He also had a spell of coaching with Havelocks when in 1986 the Club won the President’s trophy after sixteen years They won all three titles and in the Finals of the inter-club seven-a side tournament Havelocks ‘A’ met Havelocks ‘B’. Quentin had earlier been the club Secretary for eight years and its President for two years.

When I first made overtures to him to coach Trinity, he gave me cogent reasons why he couldn’t accept the offer: "Not only am I an Old Trinitian but my sisters are also Old Trinitians; I asked Trinity first but they wouldn’t have me. In any case I have done something for St Thomas’ and the boys expect me to be with them.

I had met with the Trinity Principal and had negotiated terms for Quentin to coach Trinity but, alas, after several months, the Principal recanted on the arithmetics and I realized that "a verbal contract is not worth what it is written on." My credo has forbidden me to build on a broken promise.

The next year the Old Trinitians’ Rugby Scrummage, under the stewardship of Kenneth Boteju, Raja ‘Dabar’ Adhihetty and Udeni Molligoda, undertook the payment for Quentin to coach Trinity.

He coached Trinity for only six years from 1995 to 2000 and in that period drilled the boys to win five out of six Bradbys. In the first three years the Trinity line was never crossed by the Royalists.

The Bradby he lost was when the captain, Prasanna Jayawardena and his deputy Suren Hulangamuwa were injured within ten minutes of the 2nd Leg. Trinity had in the 1st Leg turned tables on Royal in Colombo despite Maiya Gunasekera’s prediction of "60 in Colombo, 40 in Kandy." After the 1st Leg, the Royal coach, C.P.P.Abeygunawardena said in the car park for my benefit, "Must have them tested for steroids" which I considered a huge compliment.

Some misguided elements in the OBA were not happy when the odd game was lost. They wanted every match to be won and every boy to be a potential National player. This had been the bane even at STC.

Quentin is the first rugby coach to have watched games of other schools to study strengths and weaknesses to evolve ploys and stratagems. When he was coaching St Thomas’ he once came to Bogambara to watch Trinity play Wesley who were then wooden-spoonists. That very day his beloved Havelocks were playing a key match in Colombo.

He not only watched video footage with his players but he would even get into the mind of the rival coach. He would also study the wind factor.

Quentin produced twelve rugby Lions within his six year stint at Trinity and considered Prasanna Jayawardena to be the finest full back he has coached. He also coached the redoubtable Haris Omar, Pradeep Basnayake, S.Amarasinghe, M.Panduwawala, Rajiva Madugalle, M.H.Madagamage, M.B. Meegahakumbura, KJNP Jayawardena, Nuwan Fernando, Suren Hulangamuwa who was the first hooker after Bobby Sanmugam who captained in 1951 to be awarded the Lion, Kavinda Jayasena. What a wonderful pride of Lions.

He was considered the guru by all and sundry. When during his period with St Thomas’ he was convalescing at the Nawaloka Hospital after an illness, the Twin Towers of Royal visited him ,yanked his oxygen mask and asked for tips on how to beat Trinity.

When the Thomians wished to play the U17 series with Trinity for the Quentin Israel Trophy, the Trinity Principal of the time shot down the suggestion saying it should be in honour of a past Principal. He conveniently ignored that the Philip Buultjens trophy is played for in the inter-school Sevens.

A prophet is without honour in his own country.

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