Asanga Rodrigo an excellent ruggerite and coach-by Althaf Nawaz
A player should possess extraordinary talent and skills to play either as a fly half or to occupy the full back’s position in the game of rugby football. Asanga Rodrigo was one of them who handled the oval shaped ball with ease establishing several records while playing for school, club and the National team.
Asanga Rodrigo was born to a humble family. His father was Wimalasiri Rodrigo and mother Chitra Rodrigo. He lost his father at a very young age and it was his mother who took great pains in raising them. He has three elder siblings with Lasantha being the elder brother living in Perth and the two sisters Thanuja and Nadeeja who are into business are living in the country.
Asanga remained the youngest in the family living with his mother at Kelaniya. He turned out to be the only member in his family to have any sporting background. His brother schooled at Isipathana College and the two sisters attended Sirimavo Balika Vidyalaya.
Asanga was living in Kirulapone and was fortunate enough to gain admission to Royal College in 1981. He was very enthusiastic in playing cricket with some of his friends in his batch. Most of the coaches in school saw good potential in him for cricket and later it was his two good friends in his class namely Rajiv Malalasekera and Sanjay Lakpathirna who motivated him to handle the rugby ball at the age of 13 years.
Even though he started playing the game at a young age he was an average player until he reached the first XV side from 1993, and blossomed out to become the cynosure of all eyes in those seasons, which he recalls as the best era in his school rugby career.
The incident which he rates as the first instance, which he never forgets in life was in 1993- Bradby Shield at Nittawela. That year Trinity were unbeaten under Nalin Muhandiramge. Royal before meeting them in the first leg was down in morale after losing to Thomians 5-10 while Trinity beat the Thomians in Colombo. But the pumped up Royalists surged ahead in 49th Bradby Shield encounter at Nittawela. After a barren score sheet until the 48th minute, Asanga dropped a goal from 35 metres, which put them in the lead to make the score 3-0 which remained unchanged until the long whistle. In the second leg in Colombo he put up a scintillating performance to go solo to score the solitary try for his ‘Alma Mater’ not only to shatter the unbeaten record of their traditional rivals but also to win the shield on a higher aggregate, which he recalls an unforgettable moment in his life. The very next season, in the first leg Royal won 10-3 where he scored the only try with the second leg ending in an eight all draw, giving them another win on higher aggregate. His under-17 team was coached by Sampath Agalawatte and Ravi Wijenathan while the 1994 team was coached jointly by Dr.Maiya Gunasekera and C.P. Abeygunawardena.
He represented the Sri Lanka’s school team that toured Taiwan in 1993 and in1994 soon after the school season he joined CR and FC on an invitation extended by Summa Navaratnam to play in the inter-club under 22 knock-out tournament under Viraj Prasantha’s captaincy, where Asanga played a pivotal role in their success story. Later CR went on to annex the inter Club 7’s title after 12 years. He then crossed over to CH and FC in 1998 but rejoined CR in 1999 season where he continued his rugby career until 2007, where he hung up his boots ending his illustrious career which spanned over a decade. While playing for the Longden Place club, the
year 2002 was a memorable year for him, when he was entrusted with the captaincy of the
National Rugby team as well as CR and FC team after donning the Sri Lanka jersey with distinction for over a decade taking part in Rugby Asiads 1996 (Taiwan) 1998 (Singapore) 2000 (apan) 2002 (Bangkok) 2004 (Hong Kong) and the Hong Sevens in 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2004. He extended his sincere gratitude to Asanga Seneviratne, C.P. Abeygunawardena, Ana Saranapala, Ajith Abeyratne, Tony Amit and Sanath Martis the coaches who guided him when he was playing for the National Team and CR and FC.
While he was playing for Sri Lanka and CR and FC, he started his coaching with Thurstan College from 2002 to 2005. In the year 2005, for the first time Thurstan College beat Isipathana College in their annual big match for the ‘Abdul Jabbar’ Trophy. From 2006 until 2009, he served as a Rugby coach at Royal College and he was promoted to handle the senior Rugby Team (under-19) as an Assistant Coach.
In 2011, after five games he was appointed as the Head Coach of Royal which won the school’s rugby league title. After completion of his stint with Royal, he took over coaching of St. Joseph’s College, Colombo in 2015/16 season as an Assistant Coach. From 2017 onwards he has been working as an assistant coach at S. Thomas’ College, Mt. Lavinia up-to-date, while serving in the same capacity until 2018 at Police Sports Club where he was elevated as the head coach from 2019 . He handled the oval shaped ball for almost two decades from the time of his inclusion in the school’s rugby team at the under-13 age category until he retired in 2007, playing in several tournaments performing great feats as a qualified coach, which was his life long dream.
He underwent several training programmes in modern coaching techniques. These included the IRB Coaching Level – 1 in 2009 in Sri Lanka, IRB Coaching Level – 2 in 2011 in Hong Kong, World Rugby Coaching Level – 1 in 2015 in Sri Lanka, World Rugby 7’s Coaching Level – 1 in 2015 in Sri Lanka.