Pix by Sarath Kumara
We met up with Dulaj Perera during his Rugby practices at St. Peter’s College grounds. “Initially, I used to play soccer, and thereafter my friends called me to play rugby, which I did when I was in Grade six in 2004, and that was the time we started playing rugby for the under-11 team. I started going for practices daily, as I really enjoyed the sport,” he says.
Dulaj’s father, Richard Perera was a very good soccer player at St. Benedict’s Collage. It is because of his influence that Dulaj initially played soccer. “When I was small, I was quite fast. As the rugby team at St. Peters College needed a ‘runner’, they asked me to join.”
He says that it was Sanath Martis who nurtured him during his early days in rugby and now he is under Collin Denish.
When asked about his early experience in Rugby Dulaj said, that he was first chosen to play for the under 15 team, when he was 14 years in 2007, and it was a great experience. His coaches then were Imthisham Mohideen and S.W. Chang. Being involved with the sport Dulaj said that it helped him to come up to a certain standard. He has gained a lot of experience by being a part of the sport at a relatively young age.
When asked him what is necessary to make someone a good rugby player, with no second thought his answer was, “He has to be committed and has to have a passion and love for the sport. And a lot of dedication and hard work is vital.”
Dulaj said some of his most memorable moments in rugby was in 2010, the match against St. Thomas,’ they were trailed by 16 points to 31 and in the final 10 minutes, they scored three ‘tries,’ and he scored the last ‘try’ to make the result of the game being drawn. Also the team managed to stay unbeaten that year.
What does he think of rugby standards in Sri Lanka? “It is improving daily with tournaments such as the Carlton Sevens. International influence has made a difference in rugby in Sri Lanka. When we are playing with international players we can develop our standards,” he opines.
Dulaj spends his free time hanging around with his friends and he also enjoys being involved in music. “I used to play for a band called ‘Stop Watch Theory,’ where I used to play the drums, guitar and keyboard.” What he enjoys most about music is, to be able to play the guitar and organ with his father when he is at home. However he had to give up his involvement with the band due to his dedication for rugby.
Dulaj has scored 128 points in seven matches up to now, which was not expected at the beginning of the season. He does not think of his personal achievements when playing the game but he wants his team to win. “I do not think about my personal score before a match,” he says.
Dulaj has already represented Sri Lanka in the Junior Asiad tournament in 2011 in Hong Kong. He also played at the Youth Commonwealth games in the Isle of Man last year. He says that these two instances was a really good experience, because they had the opportunity to play with really good teams and he learnt a lot by playing with International players.
Dulaj will be sitting for his Advanced Level (A/L) exam next year in the Commerce field. He is hoping to involve with the game once he leaves school and also continue his studies.
Religion means a lot to him and he says that he wants to praise and thank God because without Him he would have been nowhere. He believes that God has brought him up to this standard.
As a team, Dulaj says that they pray before every match and even before and after practices. “We also pray after a match irrespective of what the result of the game is.”
Dulaj thanked his family members for being very supportive and for encouraging him to involve in sports. He also added that they never miss any of his matches.
“As Sri Lankans have being involved in rugby, at an International level, they have an opportunity in the Asian scene,” he says. As Sri Lankans, we have the skill but what we lack is the physical characteristics, as the foreign players are very big made especially those from South Africa, England and Scotland.
As a rugby player, Dulaj says, what matters is giving your best, then you know that you have given in your maximum.
By being part of the team, he says that he has been able to make some wonderful friends, which have united the team like a family. He concluded saying, “We hardly spend time at home. We are always together all five days and we also hang around together during the weekends. The bond between us is very strong.”