Referee abuse is eating away at the grassroots of rugby

Friends, This weekend has been hard. Not only because my beloved Ponies lost in a thriller. It was hard because, during and after my match as a volunteer official, I was the subject of verbal match official abuse. While I do not wish to write a story of ‘woe betide me’, and will certainly not […]

Referee abuse is eating away at the grassroots of rugby

Friends,

This weekend has been hard.

Not only because my beloved Ponies lost in a thriller. It was hard because, during and after my match as a volunteer official, I was the subject of verbal match official abuse.

While I do not wish to write a story of ‘woe betide me’, and will certainly not entertain the masses with the comments aimed at me, there must be a way we, as a rugby-loving community, can be better.

Refereeing is the only thing that I am (relatively speaking) good at on a rugby pitch. For many referees, there is either the sense of giving back, of contributing to the game in some way, or for some sneaky pocket change as a junior referee before their own match.

At what point is it still ‘rugby’ that players, coaches, club officials and spectators abuse a match official?

Notwithstanding the vitriol aimed at the professional level of referees as seen in recent weeks across SR-AU and SR-A, that these behaviours even occur face-to-face at a local, volunteer level is disgusting. The excuse of “passion”, or, “I lost control in the moment” is not viable.

What is more concerning is that my story is not an isolated one either. I know of other matches across numerous jurisdictions where referees, both adults and children, are the subject of match official abuse this weekend gone.

In some instances, the club involved have been vocal in their apologies to referees involved; others where there was no way out for the referee except to beat a hasty retreat to the carpark and hope to escape the attention of the remnants of the crowd sinking a tinnie and a snag sanga.

While I, and most other referees, are all for banter and ‘the ironic rugby cheer’, the line that ought not be crossed is seemingly becoming invisible.

Perhaps this is a result of social media, of news outlets giving airtime to unrepentant coaches in both union and other codes looking for a scapegoat, or society losing some of its compassion and ethic around treating sporting volunteers.

I would be battling many other referees for the position to be the first to put my hand up and say “I’m not perfect”, at some point there has to be a clear line in the sand. Many referee associations are at breaking point with a lack of members.

Referee abuse is a leading factor in the loss of referees to our code.

I would suggest at least 40 per cent leave each season due to abuse.

It is little wonder it’s next to impossible to find new talent, let alone retain whomever associations have.

What is the answer? To be honest, there is no clear and simple fix that I can see. Club culture starts at the top and works its way down to on-field leaders.

Jurisdictions must have, pardon the referee terminology, a clear and obvious plan with consequences that will be followed through. Referees must also be courageous and feel supported in reporting the abuse so it can be identified and dealt with.

Players take part in a training session (Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images)

Across the ditch, we have seem examples of the Hawke’s Bay competition having a crystal clear match official abuse policy after repeated incidents of match official abuse lead to the withdrawal of refereeing services for a fortnight. Of interest, players, clubs, ground marshals and spectators are ‘rated’ by the referee team for the day. There are severe sanctions for anyone abusing match officials and this is enforced from thr organising bodies down to clubs.

As a rugby community, I implore you as a spectator to place yourself into the footy boots of the volunteer with the whistle and/or flag. These men, women and children are volunteering their time to be involved in the game they love. Often, they are by themselves with no support at the ground due to the nature of refereeing at every ground.

The referee will make errors.

The referee is not perfect.

Until you are willing to try to referee yourself, keep your unhelpful and abusive comments to yourself.

But by all means, help us to “get em’ onside!”

Source : The Roar More   

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Seven talking points from the Super Rugby AU and Aotearoa finals

Well that was exciting wasn’t it? While the two eventual winners were most people’s predictions, the Finals themselves were exciting and saw heroes and villains in just the right quantities. The Trans Tasman might be just round the corner but there’s still plenty to talk about from these two Finals, so let’s get stuck in… […]

Seven talking points from the Super Rugby AU and Aotearoa finals

Well that was exciting wasn’t it?

While the two eventual winners were most people’s predictions, the Finals themselves were exciting and saw heroes and villains in just the right quantities.

The Trans Tasman might be just round the corner but there’s still plenty to talk about from these two Finals, so let’s get stuck in…

Beauden Barrett might not see the All Blacks #10 jersey for a while
For the first 60 minutes of the Aotearoa Final, Richie Mo’unga was having an ok game.

He then decided that it was time to put an end to any thoughts of a Chief’s come back and for the next 20 minutes he put in a fantastic performance that not only secured the trophy for his Crusaders, but will have had Beauden Barrett wondering if he’s put on the #10 ABs jersey for the last time.

With 20 minutes to go in the Final it was a two point game and the Chiefs had the momentum. Mo’unga then took control of the game, scored nine points in 12 minutes and made sure the Chiefs never not another sniff of a chance.

Oh and as an extra note – this was the period when the Crusaders had both Sevu Reece and Codie Taylor yellow carded.

Whether it was his first Super Rugby drop goal, the two penalty goals, the crucial solo break down the left wing to get deep into Chiefs territory or his kicking that kept the Chiefs pinned back when they were desperate to attack, Mo’unga was unstoppable.

(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

What do you do with Jordan Petaia?
The guy is hugely talented, there’s no doubt about that. But this season the Reds attacking weapon has been, well, a bit of a liability to be honest. He’s just not been reliable with ball in hand and it’s been the likes of Hunter Paisami that have caused more concerns for defensive coaches than Petaia when it comes to the Reds backs.

The big players step up in the big games. Not only did Petaia not step up – he also made errors that hampered the Reds quest for the title. And it’s not the first match this season where he’s thrown poor passes or got turned over when he runs into contact.

Part of the problem seems to be that he’s just not a winger. He’s better when you get the ball into his hands early in the play and give him some space. He’s a strong runner and got great feet so he should probably be in at #13 instead of on the sidelines.

Hopefully we’ll see an improved Petaia in the Trans Tasman. With the Reds having some good quality options at wing and centre, you worry that he might find himself in a situation soon where he’s not a starting certainty at all.

Jordan Petaia of the Reds

(Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Using Captain’s Challenge to get players off the field is final straw
We spoke about this last week but the Finals surely should put to rest the debate about the Captain’s Challenge. It has got to go.

You might think that it was Scott Barrett’s speculative use of the rule when he asked for a review of what turned out to be a pretty standard ruck. But actually it was when Brad Weber asked Ben O’Keeffe to review a tackle on one his players half way into the second half.

Normally that wouldn’t be an issue but the Chiefs had already been awarded a penalty so there was no advantage to be gained from that point of view. However there was the opportunity to get one of the Crusaders in trouble with the law.

That’s exactly what happened – Sevu Reece was sent to the bin for ten minutes and the Chiefs had a two man advantage for about five minutes.

That shouldn’t be what the Captain’s Challenge is all about – gambling that you can get an opposition player off the field for a while.

Nic Berry is going to need a new whistle
So you might have noticed that in the final ten minutes of the AU Final, there were one or two penalties yeah? In the aftermath of one of the most exciting finishes to a rugby match, let alone a final, the numbers did look quite surprising.

The Brumbies had conceded 20 penalties in the game and three yellow cards in the final 19 minutes of the match. It’s pretty hard to win anything when you’re up against that situation so the fact that the Brumbies only lost with the last play of the game is testament to how well they coped with these issues.

There will be a lot of chat about key decisions and whether Nic Berry got a bit whistle happy but it’s immaterial now. What might be quite interesting though is to consider whether the head of refereeing and officiating should put out some sort of review after each round to highlight how key decisions were reached and, if relevant, what mistakes were made by the officiating teams.

No one deserves to be bullied or abused for doing their job, even if you feel they did it badly. But it’s totally fair to be open and transparent in the reviews to see how decisions were made and what can be improved for next time.

Noah Lolesio celebrates with teammates

Noah Lolesio. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Gatland was hard done by
Cards on the table – I’ve never been that big a fan of Bryn Gatland but on Saturday he really impressed and it was the wrong decision to hook him at the 45-minute mark.

If it was because of injury then fair enough but he didn’t seem to be struggling. Far from it – the guy had really stepped up in the pressure of a final in the Crusaders back yard.

His kicking out of hand was good, he distributed well and looked good when he chose to run with it too including one brilliant line break in broken play.

With Gatland gone, McKenzie stepped up to play flyhalf and one of the biggest weapons the Chiefs have – McKenzie flying onto the ball wherever he choses in broken play – was gone. The Crusaders defence was more than capable of coping with McKenzie having to play a more structured #10 role. When he was more able to run freely in the first half, he was much more of a handful.

Can the Reds and Brumbies mix it with the Kiwis after that Final?
The Super Rugby AU Final was a slow burner but it erupted in the final 20 minutes into one that will never leave the memory.

Both teams were in a brutal arm wrestle of passion and nerves for so long with both trying everything they could to get away from the other but always being held back. The final passages of the game were crazy with yellow cards, penalties, TMO reviews and hearts breaking all over the place.

The Reds will still be celebrating right now and the Brumbies will likely still be in shock at how it slipped away. So how do you recover from those respective positions and front up for even more brutal confrontations in just a few days time?

The Brumbies have to head to Christchurch while the Reds have to head down south to face the Highlanders. Neither are easy trips. The week after the Reds welcome the Crusaders to Brisbane while the Brumbies have to travel to play the Chiefs.

It is very possible that the top two teams in Super Rugby AU are zero from two from the opening couple of rounds of the TT comp and it’s going to be hard to recover from there.

Now the real challenge for these teams begins!

Fraser McReight of Reds celebrates

Fraser McReight. (Photo by Regi Varghese/Getty Images)

Some other thoughts from the Finals
The Chiefs line out crumbled – their pack performance was one of the biggest reasons behind the Chiefs resurgence this season but against the Crusaders, the line out was ropey.

They lost four line outs outright and several others were severely disrupted by the home side. It was a real issue for them and kept their attack stumbling throughout as well as impacting their confidence.

Watch out for Nike Air (Will) Jordan coming soon – far too often the up and under leads to the kicking team losing possession. At best it might be a competitive catch. When you’ve got Will Jordan on your team the odds are very much in your favour of getting that high ball back nine times out of ten! He even makes poor high kicks look good.

Rob Valetini is getting scary – the Reds might have won but they will still be having nightmares of how the Brumbies backrower came at them phase after phase after phase. The guy is having a fantastic season and it’s going to be exciting to see him take on the Kiwis.

Source : The Roar More   

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