Teen with ‘great attitude’ making mark as referee

Ollie Shore refereed his first premier rugby match late last month. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
Ollie Shore refereed his first premier rugby match late last month. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
He was probably the youngest on the paddock but he was in charge.

At just 17 years of age, Balclutha’s Ollie Shore recently became the youngest referee appointed to a premier club rugby fixture in Otago.

He took charge of his first Southern Premier match, between Clinton and Clutha Valley, under the lights in Clinton late last month.

Valley recorded a convincing 66-10 win in a game characterised by tight marshalling of the 30 bigger, older athletes by Shore and his team.

Shore’s informal coach and mentor, Clutha-based Dunedin premier referee Caleb Neilson, said it was an extremely well-run game.

"Ollie’s driven and has a great attitude", he said.

"He wants to hear feedback and get better ... he’s very coachable."

Shore first started with the Otago Rugby Referee Association in 2020, running the touch lines most Saturdays.

In 2021 he picked up the whistle to give refereeing a go and progressed through many grades including summer touch, schools, and girls’ rugby.

He was awarded the top-ranked New Zealand Youth Referee for 2023/24, in touch. This season in the 15-man game he was noted for great form with the variety of games he has refereed this season, including 1st XV, Premier Colts and Premier Development in Dunedin.

"I played rugby from when I was little until about halfway through high school ... then I got to have a go as a ref and found out I enjoyed that a lot more", Shore said.

"My sport is refereeing."

His reputation for responsibility and reliability in the community was earned early — he is head boy at South Otago High School and joined the Balclutha Volunteer Fire Brigade when he was 16.

"Ollie’s been a very rewarding young man to train and work with", Balclutha chief fire officer Jason Lyall said.

"If he needs help or doesn’t understand something he’s straight up about it in a polite, respectful way that earns him the same in return, and he sees through what he puts himself forward for — which is a lot."

Shore wanted to pursue rugby refereeing as far as it would take him, and he has plans to begin a career as a paramedic.

"I’ve been really lucky with the adults in my life. My parents have always supported me and men like Caleb and Jason always took me seriously and helped me do my best with really thoughtful advice."