Racing: Whistle familiar sound to starter's assistant

Vinny Munro
Vinny Munro
It may be a far cry from refereeing international rugby, but the sound of the starter's whistle would have brought back fond memories to Vinny Munro at Oamaru yesterday.

Munro (44) retired from first-class refereeing at the end of last season and has found himself on occasion as part of the start crew at harness meetings around Canterbury and North Otago.

''Peter Lamb is the starter and we used to work together in the police. When he's short [of assistants], I fill in,'' Munro said.

''Obviously there were many away today, so they needed me.''

Munro has no particular background in horse racing - aside from having a wager every so often - but is enjoying the chance to get out and about before he takes up a high-performance position at the New Zealand Rugby Union next week.

''I've got a new role as the national referee development manager, so I start next Monday,'' Munro said.

''It's basically talent identification and trying to find guys to bring through the club, the zones and through to the national squad.

''As well, I look after the sevens referees, so it's Queenstown this weekend, and I'm a TMO (television match official) in Super Rugby, where I'm leading a team of four.''

Munro decided to hang up the whistle and step down from on-field refereeing after 12 years at first-class level or higher and the product of Pleasant Point was lucky enough to be able to whistle his last match at first-class level when South Canterbury played Mid Canterbury in last year's Heartland Championship. He also thanked his sense of timing as he moved from the hands-on challenges of international and Super Rugby refereeing to a post-refereeing career.

The reality is there are not many jobs [in refereeing], so when they do, you've got to time it right, so I've been lucky in that sense.

Munro looks back with fondness at his career, which took him around the world and gave him one of the best seats in the house for many of rugby's great rivalries, including being assistant referee for all three Lions tests in South Africa in 2009 and assistant referee duties at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Those were probably the two highlights that were way beyond anything you ever dreamed of when you were taking it up.