Nishantha Chanaka ruggerite and coach par excellence-by Althaf Nawaz

Nishantha Chanaka


Some sportsmen are blessed with natural talent from birth in certain sporting disciplines. When they mature, they tend to move into various other sports with the influence of either their family or friends. Kalubowilage Don Nishantha Chanaka better known as ‘Alex’ was one of the indefatigable sportsmen who engaged in several sports and ended up as a quality rugby player representing school, club and country bringing honour and fame. to the country.

Alex was born in 1971 and his father Kalubowilage Don George Aloysius was a businessman and his mother was late Withanage Don Catherine a house wife. He had two younger brothers Shandika Tharanga an engineer by profession and Dhanushka Amaranath the other brother is a Naval officer while the sister Achala is a housewife. He started his primary and secondary education at St. Sebastians College, Enderamulla and later attended Alexandra College, Colombo 7 when they were living in Enderamulla town.

After completing his G.C.E. Ordinary Level Examination he was compelled to move out to a Colombo school for his higher studies where he finally enrolled at Lumbini College to continue his G.C.E. Advance Level studies.

Even though he was renowned as a rugby player, Alex had a liking to play soccer and volleyball during his school days. He captained the volleyball team in the under-18 and 19 age groups while engaging in soccer in 1988/89 seasons while later being appointed as the National Youth Centre SC captain in 1988.

Getting into rugby was a very interesting story as Alex had a friend called Kevin White who mingled with him closely in his free time. Kevin was a great follower of rugby and gradually motivated and encouraged him to take up rugby while his school Lumbini was in the limelight producing several champion players. Subsequently, Alex was quite impressed with the oval

shaped ball game and went on to represent Lumbini first XV side at the age of 18 playing a dual role in the ‘Pack’ either as a number eight or as a flanker, as and when the need arose under the guidance of coaches Sujith Priyankara and Saman Pushpakumara in 1989/90 seasons. The Lumbini first XV team in those two seasons were captained by Amith Samarasinghe and

Rasika Rohan. During his tenure as a player in 1989 and 1990 season they qualified to play against S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia in the Milo Championship final in 1990 and also was a member of the Sri Lanka Schools National pool in 1989.

Soon after completion of the school season, he was pumped up to get into club rugby and on an invitation extended by Michael Jayasekera he decided to join the Havelock Sports Club, which was within a hop step and jump. When he enrolled to the Park Club, the sevens team was coached by former National cap Michael Jayasekera and the XV-a-side team was handled

by S.W. Chang while Graham Raux was the captain. He continued his marathon 14-year rugby career as a player while donning the CH and FC jersey in between for two seasons in 1997/98(coach Tony Amit) and the rest with the Park Club. He rejoined the Park Club in 1999 and continued his stint as a player until his retirement. At the club he played as a flanker at the outset and it was Michael Jayasekera who spotted his running skills and moved him to occupy the wing three quarter position. He was finally entrusted to lead the sevens team in 1995 where they ended up becoming champs and led the XV-a-side teams in 1995 and 2000 seasons. He also captained the under-24 club team in 1992.

He made his debut with the Sri Lanka team representing the under-24 team in a 15- a-side game against Hong Kong in 1991 in two test matches. He also played at the Rugby Asiad in South Korea in 1992. He also donned the National jersey in several sevens tournaments including the Fiji International Sevens, the Hong Kong Sevens (1994 to 2000), in the Al Ain Abu Dhabi Sevens, in the Malaysia Tri Nations-15-a-side tournament, Japan and Malaysia sevens in 2000 respectively.

In the domestic club season he represented the Havelocks and CH and FC at several sevens and XV-a-side tournaments. After he called it a day as a player, he contributed to the game

as a coach and followed several coaching programmes. These include coaching level-2 in New Zealand, IRB level-2 conducted by Gerard Gallahar, Practical programme in coaching in UK conducted by Russell Earnshaw, Training schedule for the Singer Sri Lanka Sevens with Robbie Yule and Training schedule for 7s and 15-a-side with . Keith Roberts. He served as Assistant National coach in 2006 at the Singer Sevens, toured with the National team for the Asian Games as Assistant coach in Qatar, at the Singer Sri Lanka Sevens and the Rugby Asiad in 2007. He was appointed as National coach of the Sri Lanka Sevens team for the World Cup Asian

qualifier and several other tournaments in 2008.

He also coached his club Havelocks in 2008, Police Sports Club in 2009, CH and FC in 2011 respectively. He served as Chairman of selection committee of Havelocks Sports Club from 2016 to 2018 while being a member of the National Selection Committee from 2018 to 2021.He likes to extend his sincere gratitude to his friend Kevin White and the coaches namely Sujith Priyankara, Saman Pushpakumara, Michael Jayasekara, retired senior DIG Nimal Lewke, Lal Silva, Gamini Fernando, S.W. Chang, Y. C. Chang, Tony Amit, Ana Saranapala and Jeff Matheson (NZ) who were instrumental in his success .

Some of his teammates were Chaminda Rupasinghe, Graham Raux, Azar Samsudeen, Leonard de Zilva, Thusitha Peiris, Sudath Sampath, Thushara Jayalath, Kevin Rasquinho, Ruwan Suranga and Roshan Opatha.

His wife is Indira Kalubowilage and two daughters are Nithini and Nishika while son is Nathan Kalubowilage

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