Government, corporate community’s unremitting support vital
By Rawle Welch
They are the perennial champions of the Sevens format of rugby in the Caribbean, dominating the sport for just around six years, but when they face Trinidad and Tobago on June 2 in the Southern Caribbean Qualifying Round for the Rugby World Cup 2015, at the National Stadium, the national ‘ruggers’ should expect a tough encounter against their long-standing nemesis.
The Guyanese, who have been the main architects for disrupting the long term aspirations of the ‘Trini ruggers’ will know that, even though they are undeniably the best team in the Sevens format, they have not been quite as dominant in the 15’s version, despite scoring a narrow 22-20 win over the Trinidadians in recent times, which was only the second time they had defeated their neighbours in 31 years.
On that occasion, Guyana managed to assemble a very strong team, which included all of the players that usually represent the country in the Sevens version in addition to those who were left off the same squad, and they beat a strong Trinidadian team, before falling to Bermuda.
The Trinidadians have revenge on their minds and have already announced that they will be preparing vigorously for the upcoming engagement, determined to avenge their previous losses to the ‘Kings’ of rugby in the region.
A recent visit to the locals training session revealed the seriousness in which the locals are taking the threat to their dominance judging from the fitness regimen that has been set up by Fitness Instructor, Barrington Browne, who justly has been spearheading that segment of the preparatory programme.
However, there is a major setback, and that is that more than four experienced players will be missing at least for the opening game against Barbados on May 19 due to injuries and other personal issues, while for the Trinidad game, it is ‘up in the air’ whether they will be available as well.
The Barbados game, which according to Head Coach, Theodore Henry, is not anticipated to be as tough as the TT one, should not be dismissed as merely an easy task, which would allow complacency to step in, but rather it should be used as an opportunity to get the right combination in place and to assess the chemistry and fitness of the team, before the highly touted engagement against the side from ‘Soca Land’.
The TT Board have been steadily moving in the direction of improving their standards both on and off the field, and Guyana will have to be cognizant of this development if we are to maintain our status as the best in the region.
They have the support of the Government and all the other branches that lend assistance to sports organisations across the country and those support systems will definitely lend to positive results over the long term. On the contrary, if we do not follow suit, but rather remain in an indeterminate state, we could find ourselves slipping down the rankings.
A slip in rating would be a sad episode for a bunch of dedicated athletes who have made huge sacrifices to put Guyana on the map of rugby recognition with their presence on the World Stage time and time again, playing against the best exponents in the sport on the same stage with modest support at home.
The Government needs to do more as well as members of the corporate community, and even though the same call, which was made to the Union, had ruffled a few feathers, they too need to step up and replicate the initiatives that are being taken by their Caribbean counterpart.
We have beaten countries that have a full administrative arm and some credit must be given to our Union that has had to work with little, but over the long term, it begins to take its toll and perhaps that is why the sport is struggling for mainstream recognition locally.
Rugby in Guyana, by virtue of its unrivalled success should be an automatic choice for substantial largesse; it should also be promoted as one of the national pastimes and be financially backed by the Ministry of Sport through the National Sports Commission (NSC), which is one of the appendages of Government.
Monies to assist in the development of those sports that could generate positive interests in our country should not be negated. But somehow to some, Rugby, though its achievements have been recognised over a prolonged period at the National Sports Awards for a number of years, still suffer the indignity of having to shamefully beg every time a regional or international tour comes around.
A quote from T&T’s national rugby coach Larry Mendez, who thanked the Sport Company of T&T (SporTT) for its support and assistance to the T&T Rugby Football Union (T&TRFU) during preparations for the Barbados clash sums it up. “Support services are absolutely essential in modern high performance sport. The use of modern technologies and sport science are no longer a luxury but a necessity,” added Mendez. He said that players’ demands on the national team with regard to fitness and skill development are much more than before, despite rugby being an amateur sport in T&T. “If we are to keep them (players) motivated it is important that the TTRFU and Sport Company continues to work hand-in-hand. Preparation for Guyana will be more intense and demanding than it was for Barbados. “The guys will be asked to work even harder because we simply have to be a much improved team by June 2,” he concluded.
The fact of the matter is that the Government and the corporate community’s unremitting support will be vital for our continued success going forward.