You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Nicholson, who began refereeing in 2009, was last year named Southland Referee of the Year, and also refereed the Galbraith Shield final.
Nicholson shows his commitment to the craft by making himself available for midweek interschool games as well as night games and on Saturdays.
Not many referees get to 50 senior games and even fewer do it by the age of 23.
Rugby Southland referee education officer Dermot Hughes reported that referee numbers were up in Southland this year from 52 to 56 but unfortunately there was a downturn in interest from high-school aged referees.
Feedback from the young referees not returning was that it was because of how poorly they were treated during the games by coaches, management, the players and supporters on the sideline.
To eradicate this behaviour in order to make it more attractive for young people to take up refereeing, Rugby Southland has announced the introduction of the STAG Award. The purpose of this award is to encourage positive team culture and behaviour across secondary school rugby.
This STAG Award will be contested in the U14, U15 and U17 boys grades this year and if successful, it will be rolled out across further grades next year.
STAG is an acronym for Spectator and Team Award for Great behaviour.
Each week, the referee will give each team a score out of five in the following categories; team behaviour, sideline behaviour, management behaviour and field set up. A total score out of 20 will be given to each team each week.
Points will only be scored in the round robin. The three winning teams will receive tickets to the first Southland Stags home game as well as an invitation to the captain’s run and barbecue lunch with the Stags.
The hope is that this award will be self-policing; as no player will want to hear their teammates and supporters letting their side down, while management will not want to be letting their players and schools down publicly.
A better environment for junior referees is essential if they are to progress through to senior ranks.
In the Galbraith Shield Competition this Saturday, Joshua Hamill will control the Star and Blues match at Les George Oval. The experienced Nathan Lyall has the whistle when Woodlands hosts Marist, while further up the road Taylor Swan is in charge at the Gore Showgrounds when the Eastern Northern Barbarians play Pirates Old Boys.
- John Langford