Doleman keen to develop referee education role

New Otago Rugby Football Union referee education officer James Doleman  soaks up the atmosphere...
New Otago Rugby Football Union referee education officer James Doleman soaks up the atmosphere of Logan Park yesterday. Photo: Gregor Richardson
The lure of  Otago was too great for James Doleman to ignore.

Doleman (26) started as the Otago Rugby Football Union’s referee education officer this week, a role he feels has great foundations and one he is keen to build on.

"We have great numbers here through all the good work that has been done. We have great retention rates compared to the rest of the country and a good, strong schoolboy pool which is coming through," Doleman said.

"Otago is in a good space and if I can come in and use my knowledge, experience and passion for the game that has to be good."

He said retention numbers for referees in Otago was better than most other parts of the country and there was a great spirit among referees in the South.

Doleman was a rising star in the referee ranks and had already refereed at eight World Series sevens tournaments and officiated in 35 first-class games.

He has officiated in one sevens tournament final — but that was the final in Wellington last year where there was no-one in the stands, Doleman said.

Doleman was born in Tauranga but was brought up in China and the Philippines as his parents were  teachers who worked at international schools.

He moved to Dunedin in 2010 to study physical education at the University of Otago and after five years of study graduated in physical education and also carried out a one-year teaching course.

He went to Rosmini College on the North Shore and was a teacher there for three years.

Rosmini had given him great support but the job at the Otago union was a great fit for him.His partner, Erin Smyth, came from Alexandra and they were keen to return south to be nearer family and familiar faces.

Doleman said he was first attracted to refereeing by his father who was involved in referring in Hong Kong, and the younger Doleman did a few games in the former British territory.

A broken collarbone ended his involvement on the field as a player.

When he arrived in Dunedin in 2010, the Otago Rugby Referees Association got in touch about getting involved and it went from there.

His first premier game was between Harbour and Taieri at Peter Johnston Park the next season and he continued climbing the ranks.

His first-class debut was in August 2014, controlling the match between Wairarapa-Bush and Mid Canterbury at Masterton which ended in a 23-23 draw.

Doleman’s ultimate ambition was to be a professional referee.He said he had always enjoyed being a referee and thatwas part of what made it work — enjoying the job.

"People seem to think it is a very singular sport — the referee out on his own. But I have had a great social time. I have made lifelong friends through refereeing, through the sevens circuit, right here in Dunedin and through the country."

He felt the trick to being an effective referee was being natural and always enjoying it. Having knowledge of the game was obviously vital. But most important was "having that passion for the game, getting that feel for the game".

Doleman has a busy start to the season. He would be an assistant referee for the match between the Highlanders and the Blues on February 23 before flying out the next day for sevens tournaments in Vancouver and Las Vegas .

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