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Back in the day ... Jeff Grubb prepares to control a Dunedin premier club rugby game a few seasons ago. He is flanked by assistants Doug Rodgers (left) and Neal Wallace. PHOTO: ODT FILES

Jeff Grubb makes things go bang for a living but he is hoping not to see too many explosive situations in Citizens Shield rugby this season.

Grubb has been appointed referee education officer for the North Otago union.

He replaces former test referee Colin Hawke, who oversaw both North Otago and South Canterbury refereeing before retiring to focus on his commitments with New Zealand Rugby.

Palmerston-based Grubb’s sole focus will be North Otago, a boost for an area that is always keen to add to its stock of whistle-blowers.

“Really, my role is just to support referees in North Otago and also to look into recruitment,” he told the Oamaru Mail

“Recruiting is our biggest problem at the moment. It’s going to be a challenge, but if we don’t do it, we’re not going to be able to cover every game.

“Getting around club rugby on Saturdays and just tapping people on the shoulder is going to be the way to do it, I think.”

North Otago has lost two premier officials, Blair Malcolm and Craig Cottier, from last year’s squad.

“At this stage, we haven’t picked up too many new referees, but we’re hanging in there,” Grubb said.

“We’ve got enough to cover the first couple of weeks, put it that way.

“But when president’s grade starts on April 7, and then school rugby starts in May, we’ll be a bit stretched.”

Grubb controlled 130 games of premier club rugby in Dunedin.

He has refereed only a handful of games in the last couple of years but will help out if he is needed this season.

Aspiring referees – of any age – would get plenty of coaching, support and gear, he said.

A buddy system would help a new referee get settled, and the referees are regularly analysed to make sure they are not being pushed too fast through the grades.

Like players, referees had opportunities to earn higher honours, Grubb said.

“We want to see our guys go as far as they can, and push for South Island or national roles or whatever.

“Someone like Nick Webster is going very well, and we want to see how high he can go. And we’re always on the outlook for other good referees who have potential.”

The million-dollar question was how to sell refereeing to doubters, especially younger folk.

“Hah, that’s my big learning curve,” Grubb said.

“I found it reasonably easy to get into refereeing. It was just a progression from playing. I played 150-odd games of premier rugby for Taieri and Eastern, and then I refereed 130 premier games in Dunedin.

“I just wanted to stay in the game. I loved rugby so much and I didn’t want to lose it.

“It’s just about staying involved, and a chance to have fun and see some good rugby.”

Grubb works for Red Bull Powder Company, which manufactures explosives for the Macraes gold mine.

Anyone keen to learn more about refereeing can contact education officer Jeff Grubb (027 634 0138) or referees association boss James Symes (027 522 6470). An associate refereeing course is being held at Whitestone Contracting Stadium at 11am on Saturday. Everyone is welcome.