100 up for Otago referee

Referee James Doleman at Logan Park this week. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Referee James Doleman at Logan Park this week. Photo: Gregor Richardson

Last weekend was a special one for James Doleman.
The Otago referee controlled his 100th world series sevens match a week shy of his 28th birthday and in front of his parents.

He held the whistle as Wales upset England in Singapore.

It was his 20th tournament on the world series since making his debut in 2016, and it came a week after his career highlight.

That had been refereeing the final in Hong Kong - the country he first refereed in when injury forced him out of playing a tournament there.

Next year's Olympics in Tokyo were the end goal for the 23 referees brought into the mix after the last Games in Rio.

Only 11 of that group remain, although he would need to keep performing to reach his biggest stage yet.

"The reason you get into it is because you love the game,'' he said.

"The reason you keep going is you get to have that experience with big moments.

"What drives me to keep refereeing is being involved in those big moments.

"Refereeing in front of 40,000 is quite a thrill. You get nervous before the game, but once you blow the whistle you're just part of the action.''

After the Olympics he would likely look more exclusively to the 15-a-side game.

As Otago Rugby's referee education officer, he remains highly involved in that format on and off the field.

Becoming a professional referee remains his goal. Despite that, he is firmly grounded when at the grassroots.

"A saying I learnt early on in my referee career is for a player that aspires to a test match, whatever that level [they play at] is -that's their test match.

"So if their level is club footy, that's their test match and as a referee you've got to provide to that level.

"If you don't you're letting down the game.''

jeff.cheshire@odt.co.nz

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