“What Are You Watching, Sir!?” In Defense Of Our Refs

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I am a rugby lifer. I have played, coached, administrated and reffed. Today, I will don my ref hat because I was  sent a link via  my local ref society for the below action figurine of IRB Ref Nigel Owens.

Jokes aplenty were made, including:
Just think how much money you could make selling Bryce Lawrence figures to gun ranges in South Africa. -Joe S. of Xavier Rugby

1st Ref to be "Grogged"

If you’re heading in that direction they could market a Wayne Barnes version to the Kiwi’s, and Alain Rolland to the Welsh. The Scapegoat Range – For when it’s impossible to accept that your team simply lost the game.” – Referee Nick P. [Good friend…despite killing me and my NYRC squad in the NRU game. Wink, wink]

The society’s figurine email discussion was clever enough that it inspired me to share it, but I wanted to make sure proper credit was given, for they great one-liners.

I am joking about re Nick and the NRU’s… I have been part of this game long enough to know it is never the ref’s fault. Yet people lose sight of that – referee pun intended – and have plenty of traditional nonsense to throw the way of the official.
Use your good eye, Sir!
Let them play, Ref!
And of course…
Watch game are you watching, Sir?!”
These are the nicer, PG-rated taunts – RWU is a family site/show/thing. We can save the the saltier ones for the pub.

What’s interesting, is that bashing the ref is almost innate. For instance, I was once told by a 12-year-old at the Play Rugby Mayor’s Cup Flag rugby Championship that, “I was the worst ref he ever had!!!” While I was flattered to be the first ref to earn that distinction in his eyes – he’ll no doubt pass the torch to a few more refs over his rugby life – I was immediately wondering if that was a learned or inherited behavior. And even if I was horrific, yet knew that title wouldn’t be mine for long, I was still a bit happy. For that moment, the title was mine!

My foot bottom right!

But let’s talk about the present… This week, the Ref appointments for Rounds 3 and 4 of the Heineken Cup, will have Munster fans complaining that Romain Pointe will give Paul O’Connell a yellow card before kickoff and Northhampton Saints fans saying that their dreams of a miracle comeback will be crushed by George Clancy. Bet the house on it!

So now, in defense of our referees, because I am absolutely tired of fans having a go at referees, are a few points I would like all our readers, from Rugby novice to curmudgeonly Old Boy to remember:

1) Laws not Rules! You got that? Before you question a ref about the rules, stop yourself. Rugby has laws, not rules.  Laws are open to interpretation. Rules aren’t.
2) Though we talk about the Rugby’s close relationship to American Football, it is not American football. Our refs don’t wear stripes and illegal play is gray, and rarely black and white. American football’s are almost exclusively Black and White.
3) Only the Captain may talk to the Ref. If you ain’t the captain, stop arguing with the Ref!!
4) The Captain may talk but not yell, nor outright argue, with a ref’s decision.
5) This, I tell my players: “If you get to the point in the game where the reffing decides if you win or loss, then you have already lost!
6) Adjust to the ref’s game, don’t complain that the gate is too wide or he lets things go at the ruck. Get extra bodies to the ruck be prepared.
7) It is a game of cat and mouse. A Ref will always have a rule that they don’t enforce as much as the other ones, because they are human. Discover it and exploit it.

Finally, if it is a young ref or new one, make sure tell him he had a good game. It is important for their future confidence.

Comments are welcome and if you see Matt “Polar Bear” Hawkins, can you ask him what happened against the Lobos?!

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About the Author ()

Born in Osu, Accra, Ghana, West Africa, Junoir Blaber is a rare commodity; while most Ghanians eat, sleep and dream Soccer (football), Junoir is all about Rugby. A self-proclaimed Rugbyologist, he has been involved in Rugby as a ref, coach, administrator and player since Columbus discovered Ohio. His useful/trivial rugby knowledge qualify Blaber as RWU's Senior Correspondent & known in rugby circles as The Rugby Rain Man. He can also be found moonlighting for our American partners at MeetTheMatts.com.

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