The Sunday Leader

Former Havelocks players celebrate centenary in Melbourne

Over 250 former players, their families, supporters, friends and interstate guests of the Havelocks Sports Club celebrated a century of service to sport with a dance held at the Valguarnera Social Club, Clayton, in greater Melbourne, Australia.

Founded in 1915, the Havelocks Rugby Club is the oldest rugby sports club in Sri Lanka and the only active club in Australia. Everybody came to meet old friends and those they had played with and against. Colleagues, old rugby rivals and opponents all assembled together, ready to enjoy a night filled with nostalgia. Even members of old time rival club CR & FC graced the occasion. Tickets were sold out months in advance with a waiting list taken for cancellations.

The evening was supposed to resonate with the former rugby players in Melbourne and remind them of social nites held during the rugby seasons in Colombo, for which the Havelocks Sports Club was famous. They were not disappointed, because it did just that. “It was a great big party”, said one of the guests, “just like the Havelocks socials  in Colombo.” There were many others who repeated the comment.

Randy Pietersz, organising committee member, opened the event welcoming chief guest Maurice de Silva and his wife Moira from Queensland and acknowledged all the guests and sponsors of the night. He said that they had seen nothing yet with the elaborate two-week long celebrations organised to take place in Colombo in late August for the centenary, with one of the highlights being the first Havelocks vs. CR & FC encounter match to be played under lights at the Havelocks grounds. “This is the mother of all matches!” he said. “Even if you can’t be at the other events, you have to be at this blockbuster match – the match of the century – to bring back memories of the glorious past of this traditional encounter with the rivals we like to both love and hate at the same time.” He encouraged others to join the 30 Australians and other overseas supporters making the trip to Sri Lanka to be part of the celebrations being organised under the capable leadership of Bentley Barsenbach. Other events organised include a Centenary Night, Sing Along a la Havies, President’s Night, Black Tie Ball and a Beer Morning. A fitting host of celebrations to make everybody’s trip back to Sri Lanka worth the effort.

The venue looked resplendent, themed out very tastefully by Delani in the Havelocks colours of pink and brown, with rugby balls and fake grass adorning the tables. The food by Silverline Catering was decadent with yet another master centrepiece created by Desmond Foulstone using rugby jumpers, boots and a decorative plaque, ‘Celebrating Havelocks Sports – A Century of Service – 1915-2015′. Redemption played music for the old and young. The speeches were entertaining and all captains past and players had honourable mentions and joined the line-up for acknowledgement and applause.  Pastor Ronald Rodrigo, former Havelocks player, presided with grace before dinner, mentioning old time friend and referee Ashey Cader. The wives of late captains  Nimal Maralande and Jeffrey de Jong were also invited to join the line-up for acknowledgement and presentations. Greetings from Dr Larry Foenander, long time coach and dear friend, unable to attend the celebrations, were read. The compere for the night was Everad Hoffman who took people down memory lane.

Chief guest, Maurice de Silva delivered his speech in his inimitable way, providing a lot of humour as he recalled highlights from matches played and socials held.  The audience was hushed as he took everybody through the nostalgic history of the club, their highs and lows and their contribution to the social scene in Sri Lanka and here in Australia.

The rendition of the club song, ‘One More Havelocks’ was taken to a new level with Maurice taking the lead and showing guests the way it was sung at the singalongs of old. Everard Hoffman backed on guitar. The club song was not considered over until it was completed by the usual ribbing of the CR & FC with the rendition of, ‘Hang down your heads CR & FC…..Havelocks have scored a try,’ which brought a lot of laughter and applause from Havelocks supporters as it reminded them of just what serious opponents the two clubs used to be.

The celebrations ended in the wee hours of the morning after many songs and ditties had been sung and many happy rugby players of old reluctantly called it a night, only to party on at some other after-party that had been organised.

Accolades poured in. “Well done, good show, boys” the patriach of the Havelocks collective here in Melbourne, Frankie David, said. “Fantastic effort and very fitting for our club”. “We should have it more often”, said another. “When is the next one?” someone wanted to know. “Can’t believe we are meeting all these people we used to know in the one place”. “I saw people I haven’t seen for years”. “The food was great,” “The band was great,” I haven’t been for a dance for ages, but couldn’t miss this one,” “It was one great big party,” “Shame I couldn’t get a ticket to attend as I was on the waiting list.”

It is befitting to thank the hardworking committee Randy Pietersz, Jerome Ephraums, Len de Silva, Beverly de Kauwe and Michael Vanlangenberg for a sterling job done in the name of their revered club, so much so that the social scene in Melbourne is buzzing with stories and happy pictures from the night with friends they had not seen in years to add to their collection of memories.

“Why don’t you have one in Sydney,” somebody proposed. Something to think about when all the excitement has subsided and the Sri Lankan celebrations have concluded.

All proceeds from the night will go to the betterment of the club and the 100 years centenary fund.

by Marie Pietersz



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