National boss praises Otago referees' esprit de corps

New Zealand Rugby referees manager Bryce Lawrence (right) talks to (from left): Otago Rugby...
New Zealand Rugby referees manager Bryce Lawrence (right) talks to (from left): Otago Rugby Referees Association chairman Chris Hart, referee Peter McGregor and referees coach Dave Bokser at Bishopscourt on Saturday. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Referees are in good heart in Otago, says the national boss, although nationwide there is still a shortage of more than 500 whistle-blowers.

New Zealand Rugby referees manager Bryce Lawrence was in Dunedin at the weekend to look at all things refereeing. He was accompanied by NZR referees development manager Matt Peters and top referee Brendon Pickerell.

Lawrence talked to referees and viewed a couple in action, and said there seemed to be a strong spirit among referees in Otago.

"They've got a good club culture down in Otago. It is just not about the 80 minutes and it seems the referees are more like a rugby club - all together and enjoying each other's company,'' he said.

He said Otago had the advantage of having the university, which produced young referees who wanted to be involved in the game.

It was hard getting enough referees nationwide and with secondary school grades starting this weekend the pressure would go on.

Many former players came back to refereeing and they usually turned into top referees. Most loved refereeing but they could alway do with more.

Lots of players, though, did not take up the whistle.

"Perhaps they miss that team thing. When you are a referee you are on your own. It's different from being in a team, where you are one of many. But the rewards are great.''

Lawrence said rugby was not an easy game to referee.

"It is a complicated game, but the referees who are the best are the ones who have taken a complicated game and made it simple. There are a lot of rules, but you might not use 75% of them in any single day.''

He said improved coaching of referees under a new model this year was helping officials and players become more aware of rules.

At the moment there are 1800 referees nationwide, but ideally 2500 referees are needed across the country to officiate games from under-12 level up.


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