Junior players in for treat with Highlanders in charge

Otago Rugby Referees Association education officer Tumua Ioane (centre) is surrounded by...
Otago Rugby Referees Association education officer Tumua Ioane (centre) is surrounded by Highlanders (from left) Nehe Milner-Skudder, Shannon Frizell, Aaron Smith and Liam Coltman who will referee junior rugby this Saturday. PHOTO: CHRISTINE O’CONNOR
All Black and Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith will switch his trademark bullet pass for a whistle this Saturday morning.

The 31-year-old has produced some pivotal performances for the national team since making his international debut in 2012.

And he has done it on some of the biggest stages. Think Eden Park, Twickenham, Stade de France and now Monticello.

Wait, what?

That is right. The world’s best No9 will referee a year 5 game at Monticello Park this weekend.

He will not be alone. All of the Highlanders’ game-day squad and five additional squad members have been paired up and will referee 14 games of junior rugby between them.

Smith is heading to the home of Zingari-Richmond.

Former All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder is also on referee detail. It will be a real treat for the children and the spectators.

The initiative is part of the franchises’ salute to community rugby and does not end with some star whistle blowers.

All registered junior rugby player will get free entry into the Highlanders match against the Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Sunday.

Free. No money. That is a good deal by any calculations.

In addition, all club rugby life members throughout Otago and Southland will also be granted free entry.

The annual club relay race will take place at halftime. It has been a hotly contested event and, as the marketing team pointed out, invites controversy every year.

They have assured all involved the cameras will be rolling in case there is another photo finish.

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