Sarath Madugalle, a pivotal force in the game of rugby | Sunday Observer

Sarath Madugalle, a pivotal force in the game of rugby

20 August, 2023

I am still a bit gripped by a cheerful feeling of excitement over rugby. My reading makes me aware that rugby was created by William Webb Ellis.

It is rather riveting and engrossing to observe that Ellis with utter ardour and zeal had picked up the ball, while found himself running with it in his arms during a football game at Rugby school in Warwickshire, England in 1823.

Exactly two centuries following its creation, I came to know Sarath Madugalle, a Rugby player and referee. Having sat with him over a warm cup of coffee in the cool climes of the island’s Hill capital on a bright crisp afternoon, I watched him indulging in a blissful and enchanted nostalgia on his odyssey from a young school rugby player to a referee.

I was just closely listening to the zestful and exuberant rugby player and referee living in Madugalle; despite his dynamic and vibrant approach with his selected field of sports, he is nourished with a good sense of humour that makes him an edible and able personality within the citadel of rugby.

Hailing from Matale, Madugalle boosts on a perpetual and buoyant childhood, spent among his two female younger siblings in the picturesque serenity in Matale. Madugalle had his education at St. Thomas’ College, Matale; Rugby was introduced to his alma mater in 1994. Madugalle was among the players that consisted of the Rugby team of St. Thomas’ College, Matale.

I recollect as to how I was all ears, as Madugalle in retrospect was sharing a wave of stirring and rousing experiences that have made him a sportsman by virtue. Madugalle’s daring and intense sportsmanship reminds me of the iconic and legendary Rugby players in the likes of England’s Jonny Wilkinson and Jonah Lomu of New Zealand. “Rugby was introduced to St. Thomas’ College, Matale, in 1994.

Playing rugby and representing the school team was the passion of almost everyone. We all were well geared and effectively prepared for any sporting encounter. I can still recall as to how we got trained under the trusting and focused coaching of Mr. Edama, the first Rugby coach of my school”, Madugalle shares. His flair, aptness and intrinsic aptitude brought him the celebrated title of the “Captain of St. Thomas’ college Rugby team” in 1997 which is an astounding milestone in his passion for rugby.

While being thoroughly committed to rugby at first, Madugalle landed his flight on another unique runaway where he found himself being hugely impressed with athletics; 100m, 200m and 400m were his forte. Under the guidance of the then St. Thomas’ college athletic coach Ranjith Aluvihare in the year 1997, Madugalle’s childhood dream of becoming a sprinter blossomed into the fundamental power in all reality.

Navy Colours 

Madugalle’s next destination was the Sri Lanka Navy with which he joined in 1998. He took part in track and field competitions;100m and 200m. Madugalle is decorated with Navy Colours. He is arguably well convinced of each and every coherent and optimal strategy, applied with his competitive encounters, he got his name written in the history of the athletic domain of the Central province; in the good old days, enjoyed with the Matale District record for 100m and 200m track and field competitions in the National Sports Festival.

In the prime of his youth, in the very same Sports Festival, he boasts of having the 100m and 200m records in the Central Province. Madugalle got the scarce and few and far between opportunity of representing Sri Lanka in 400m at the 1980 Olympics.

Madugalle is left with intriguing and appealing breakthroughs in his selected field of sports where his radar pushed him to a rather pivotal realm; 2009 was a crucial year in Madugalle’s life and during which he started Rugby coaching. In the very same year, he found himself being the junior assistant coach, of the Rugby team of Trinity College, Kandy. Madugalle joined with the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Referees Society in 2009 and since then he has been refereeing in multiple number of matches.

Madugalle was a part and parcel of an initiative in 2012 during which the need was to promote the American Football in Sri Lanka; Madugalle had a stint in this short lived project where he coached the Kandy Skyking team.

Women’s rugby is possibly one of the most successful stories within the bailiwick of sports. It has been experiencing unrivalled growth around the globe, notably in the UK; it is predicted that for the next couple of decades, it would have the potential of representing a single substantial opportunity for growth.

“As rugby is currently distinguished to be the fastest growing sport, played by women in the international context, it is so much of significance to be part of this distinctive community and research on the positive consequences that it would bring out; that’s where I got myself involved with the women’s rugby development in the Central Province”, Madugalle said.

Madugalle is optimistic with a crystal clear keenness on this particular aspect of promoting women’s rugby where he contributes significantly for the sustainability of women’s rugby in his capacity as a women’s rugby development officer that comes under the purview of the Sri Lanka Rugby Union.

Madugalle has never been away from Rugby, played by his alma mater; with his outstanding track record, he got appointed the head coach for under 19 rugby team of St. Thomas’ College, Matale in 2015. Madugalle was also the Rugby coach of the Sabaragamuwa University’s Rugby team way back in 2017. He has refereed Carlton Super 7s, Sri Lanka Super 7s, all the schools as well as that of the club tournaments, held in the island.

It is crystal clear that the referees of any sport are performers too; in that light, a referee in a Rugby match is also not an exception. Unless there is a referee, playing a game of rugby would simply be a dream that would never come true.


Madugalle notes, “You may notice that like any other sport that you know, rugby too is fundamentally controlled by a referee. Being a referee, you are undoubtedly required to be utterly independent, transparent, and unbiased. One of the significant duties that a referee is bound by is to ensure that the players maintain top-notch discipline and justice is well served to every player and the team, competing in a tournament.”

Madugalle has an abundance of aerobic capacity, muscular endurance, and strength in himself where he naturally becomes an absolute poise and grace to watch even from the furthest place of the pavilion.

Madugalle noted, “The barrister Wayne Barnes of England is my source of inspiration and I enjoy watching his impeccable style of refereeing. He is well known as one of the most nonpareil referees of all time. Also, I am hugely obsessed by the fact that he is one of the best whistle-blowers in the game of rugby. For Madugalle, Rugby is his life. For me, as Heyneke Meyer, professional rugby union coach said, “Ballroom dancing is a contact sport. Rugby is a collision sport”.