Of all the ways to brighten up a cold, wet Monday evening, this was surely one of the best.
JP Doyle and an array of the country’s top referees from the RFU Professional Referee Unit descended on Antlers Shed in Bushy Park on Monday for an evening of informative chat and hilarious anecdotes. With JP in full flow as the MC it was destined to be a lively evening and so it was.
The gathered throngs from across the club were first treated to JP giving us an insight into the life of a professional Premiership referee. The level to which every game and the performance of the referee is assessed and graded afterwards was astounding and must certainly keep them on their toes.
Some interview style cameos from up and coming elite level assistant referees Anthony WOODTHORPE and Hamish SMALES then followed and their youthful take on why refereeing is now a chosen career path showed how far the game has come over the last 20 years.
Then a real treat of hearing from Luke PEARCE, Matt CARLEY and Andrew JACKSON about the progression from grassroots referee right the way through to officiating in The Premiership, The European Champions Cup and at the rarefied atmosphere of a Scotland v All Blacks game at Murrayfield.
We heard next from Chris WHITE and Steve LEYSHORN about how referees are recruited, trained and developed and the bombshell from Chris that Antlers decrepit bar manager ‘Vinnie’ HARTE was once a brilliant rugby player, who was so good that in the 1970’s was head hunted by London Irish. I think we need to take to task the person who once said that the referee is always right.
After a short break the evening was finished off by the heavyweights of international refereeing Tony SPREADBURY and Brian CAMPSALL. Like a double act they kept the laughs flowing thick and fast as they regaled us all with tales of refereeing daring do from the 80’s and 90’s, all totally hilarious.
Huge thanks to JP and the referees for giving up their Monday evening to come along to the club and have a chat, a beer and happily mix with us at the grassroots level of the game. The abiding memory of all of them was their passion for the game, their absolute determination to protect the longstanding values that rugby has and most of all that referees are human beings, not decision making robots.
A truly fantastic evening!!
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Updated 12:30 - 23 Apr 2018 by Leon Spight
OR contact the Club Refereeing Co-ordinator Nick GITTINS via firstname.lastname@example.org