So, quiet day today. Got my head down on some studying and writing I needed to do, and then headed over to the Plymouth Albion ground to act as an Assistant Referee for one of this season’s cup finals. I’m doing one next Wednesday as well. I’ve played a heck of a lot more rugby matches than I’ve refereed, yet in all my years playing I never managed a medal, now I already have one for refereeing, and I’ll have two by the end of the season! I still get quite nervous before refereeing, especially when I’m out there on my own. Being part of a team of three, though, has a special buzz about it.
My first ever game as an official I was part of a team of three. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it – it was a Friday night veterans game under floodlights at one of the few local teams who own their own ground and have proper stands (other than Albion). It was an amazing experience, kitted out in communications gear, walking out of the tunnel onto the pitch under floodlights, with a (admittedly rather small) crowd watching. And this was my first game as an official! My next game brought me to earth with a bump – a rain-lashed game played on a mud-bath of a pitch which I eventually blew up early because both sides were covered in mud and I couldn’t tell one side from the other in the rucks and mauls.
I’ve never forgotten the buzz of that first experience though. It’s one of the reasons I’ve stuck at it, even when I’ve been eaten up by nerves before solo games. I’m not an ambitious ref, I have no desire to make it to the top, but I’m glad that even being a local referee is giving me these opportunities to do something I’d never otherwise experience. Of course, when the whistle blows I’m not concerned with being the centre of the attention, with being the one in the limelight – that’s the players’ job! As a ref I’m there, with the others, to ensure the game is played fairly and safely according the Laws of the game. But that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy being under the floodlights, getting just a little taste of what guys like Nigel Owens, Wayne Barnes and Craig Joubert are part of each week of the season.
My next game is on Saturday, a solo outing for a Merit Table game, featuring the 2nd Xvs of the club we hold our Referee Society meetings at and my local club here in Saltash. I’m sure it’ll all go fine and I’ll enjoy it (plus it’s good exercise and a great opportunity for getting to talk to people outside the Church who nonetheless always seem interested in what I do!), but already I’m looking forward to getting back out under those lights next week!
Whether you enjoy being under the lights, or would rather hide away, travel well.