Rugby legendary Royalist Summa Navaratnam dies at the age of 98
Former Sri Lanka Rugby star Sumanthiran (Summa) Navaratnam passed away today, (19) aged 98.
Having come through the ranks of Royal College, Navaratnam went on to represent the Ceylon rugby team in the 1940s and 1950s.
He was also one of the three local native Sri Lankans to represent the Sri Lankan national team which had then been dubbed ‘All-White Sri Lanka.’
Born in Jaffna, Navaratnam was a super star for CR and FC during the 1950s where most notably he led the Red Shirts to Clifford Cup Victory in 1954.
At the end of his playing career, he took up coaching. He gave away Royal College his services for free for many years.
Former Royal College sportsman and Sri Lanka rugby star Summa Navaratnam even at the age of 97 was involved in the Rugby Academy he formed in 2009.He made it a point to visit the academy and used to go there on most days, after lunch, around 2.30 pm.
The Royal College, Colombo teams from 1970-79 recalled that their tenure was the golden decade of Rugby at Royal, as the results of their matches and the style of Rugby they played gave ample credence, to them being bestowed with this honour.
They produced many great players and teams under the tutelage of two of the greatest Royal coaches Mahes Rodrigo (1970-72) and Summa Navaratnam (1973-79); winning the Blue Riband of Schools Rugby, the Bradby Shield in six of these years and also establishing the series record for the highest score in 1976 that stood for more than 25 years
Navaratnam married twice and as he recalled he met both his wives within the rugby community. He was first married to Rosemary Rogers, the bestselling author, with whom he raised two children. His second marriage was to Romaine de Zilwa.
When his playing days came to an end he took to rugby administration. He became the president of the Ceylon Rugby Football Union and was also the first president of Sri Lanka’s rugby controlling body when this sports body was renamed as the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union (SLRFU).
Navaratnam was also a top athlete for Sri Lanka having won number of medals breaking several records. In fact, he was called ‘the fastest man in Asia’ after clocking 10.04s in the Men’s 100m at the India States Olympic Meet.
Apart from his heroics on the field, Navaratnam also pursued his mercantile career as a Junior Trading Executive of Dodwell & Company in Colombo.
After the closure of Dodwell’s company, he joined the Stores & Sales Department of Colombo Commercial Company. On his return to Sri Lanka in around 1989, he became General Manager of Consolexpo Corporation where he served in the relevant position for a period of three years.
He became General Manager at the Ceylon and Foreign Trades PLC in 1993 and served in the position for about 16 years before his retirement in 2009.
He was also appointed on the board of Ceylon and Foreign Trades and its subsidiaries.
The remains of late Summa Navaratnam will lie at the A. F. Raymond Parlour today (20) from 8.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. and the last rites will be done at the Borella Cemetery.