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How Heathens used past pains to bounce back

Heathens were crowned champions of 2024

Heathens were crowned champions of 2024

On June 1, the final day of the 2024 Nile Special Rugby Premier League season, Platinum Credit Heathens rugby club flanker Joaquim Chisano (donning number seven) walked onto the field at Kyadondo with his mind elsewhere.

Spotting a plaster-made wristband, Chisano had names of his injured teammates: Vanny Adebua, Victor Wangobo and Herbert Champara written on. That was supposed to remind him of how important it was that he wins it for his mates; testament of how Heathens were galvanised by the pain they have had to endure in recent past.

Chisano just completed his third season with Heathens since moving from the Plascon Mongers in 2021. And while he won the championship in 2022, last year, the Stanbic Black Pirates beat them to it, including defeating them at home, 8-6, which was a first at Kyadondo in five years.

Such is the mindset that has enabled Heathens to always bounce back, as Ronald Kanyanya, a former Heathens player, who now turns out for the Buffaloes, said. Yet, Chisano added, that after missing large parts of last season through injury, returning for this one meant everything to him.

“I lost my father last year, and I was dying to do something in tribute to him. This championship was it,” Chisano said.

As destiny would align, Chisano scored the first try en route to Heathens’ 15-13 win over Pirates. Yet, on paper, looking at the two squads, Pirates appeared a better side technically. Seeing that a number of the big names for Heathens, including, Lawrence Ssebuliba, Scott Oluoch, Paul Epillo, and Simon Olet (previously injured in a motor accident) were on the bench, made even the biggest of Heathens loyalist fret.

But nothing beats the will to win. The youngsters like Albright Sempa, Morgan Odoch, and Malcolm Okello showed unwavering spirit throughout. And even though it is hard to downplay the psychological boost that their captain, Michael Wokorach is to Heathens, the strength and conditioning of this Heathens side has looked top-notch.

Physical trainer Allan Otim and the assistant coach Kevin Makmot take the credit for that, to a point that even Emmanuel Byamugisha, who got Heathens’ second and final try was up to speed despite being crocked for much of last year. Chisano said, that all those days in physio-therapy, and grieving for his father just brought the Heathens family together to great effect!

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