Top referee an achievable career
Garratt Williamson has refereed some of New Zealand's top rugby players and says it is an achievable career for anyone with the drive to live through rugby.
The international whistle blower is showing the possibilities open to local refs, as the Horowhenua Kapiti Rugby Referees Association looks to address a shortage of referees this year due to retirements and people leaving the region.
Williamson, a professional referee from Paraparaumu, started refereeing when he was 15, in 1986.
He refereed college games but stopped the next year believing he could make it as a decent player. After several seasons with the Paraparaumu senior side, Williamson went back to refereeing in 1997 and regrets the 10 years he took off.
"I probably thought I was a better player than I was. I was always driven to do something in rugby, and it took me a while to realise that playing wasn't going to cut it.
"I get to travel all around the world, refereeing the biggest players in the best sport in the world. It's great. I don't know how you couldn't love it."
He said two years ago, while refereeing the Auckland Blues against the NSW Waratahs, "I looked at the scrum and saw an All Black forward line on one side, and Aussie forward line on the other. I just thought to myself, this is pretty cool."
Despite running matches in front of 45,000-plus crowds, Williamson had always wanted to ref at the Levin and Paraparaumu domains.
He fulfilled those dreams last season, controlling the Horowhenua-Kapiti v Wairarapa Bush match in Levin, and Paraparaumu v Waikanae game in Paraparaumu.
He also refereed the Rosebowl match between Kapiti and Paraparaumu College last year at Te Atiawa Park in Paraparaumu, with a trophy named after his father.
"I was pretty nervous for that one. For it to be such an intense rivalry, and the trophy is presented by my father. It was a big deal."
Rugby union liaison officer Brian Moore said there are 16 active referees in the region, down two from last year.
"We want as many as we can get. The main thing is that you have good leadership skills, and a love for the game."
"Like Garratt has shown, if you want to make something of it, you can go further.
"We will mentor you right from the start."
Men and women interested in refereeing should contact the H-K rugby union on 367 8059, or call freephone 0800 REFEREE.