Call for volunteers to bolster referees’ ranks

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Refereeing is a numbers game – and James Symes wants more numbers.

The president of the North Otago Rugby Referees Association has put out his annual call for more people to join his group to help ensure local rugby has enough officials.

“We’ve got about 12 at the moment, if we’re lucky,” Symes told the Oamaru Mail

“We’re about three down on last year. We’re trying to recruit some new ones at the moment.”

Symes would dearly love to attract a few more full-blown referees, capable of handling any level of rugby, but is also keen to sign up associate referees.

“We’ll take whatever we can get.

“If we can sign up a few more associates, they can cover under-14 and under-16 games, allowing the referees to concentrate on the bigger stuff.”

Refereeing was a way to give something back to the game, to stay fit or to simply enjoy being a part of the sport, Symes said.

“You don’t have to be a former player. You just need to be keen on rugby, basically.”

The North Otago association provides referees for every game at under-14 level and above each week. Highlanders First XV games take priority, then Citizens Shield games, then the lower grades.

Refereeing can now be a career path, and North Otago No1 Nick Webster’s rise was an example for other whistle-blowers in the province, Symes said.

“Nick’s probably only been a regular referee three or four years, so it’s not long before you can start getting some really exciting opportunities.”

Webster is in the New Zealand referees development squad, is a regular at Heartland Championship level, and has just controlled a premier club game in Wellington.

He would be called away to other areas at regular points throughout the club season, Symes said.

“For a lot of them, there will be a referee exchange, so we will get a good referee from somewhere else. It’s always good to learn off someone else.”

The North Otago referees meet at Waitaki Boys’ High School every Monday.

An associate course was to be held on April 12, Symes said.

“It means people can referee contested scrums. A lot of it is around game safety, player safety, basic calls, and a touch judge component as well.”

– Anyone interested in becoming a referee can contact James Symes on 027 522 6470.