Gruelling load set for Manawatu referees unless more sign on

Manawatu need more referees to handle the load through the peak rugby season.
Ginnie Kinder

Manawatu need more referees to handle the load through the peak rugby season.

Manawatu's top referees are in in danger of burning out due to a lack of numbers according to Manawatu Rugby Union chief executive John Knowles.

The large number of rugby matches and tournaments in the region coupled with lower referee numbers prompted the exclamation from Knowles at the union's annual meeting earlier this month.

With the senior A and B seasons set to get underway this weekend, top referees, who are all volunteers, will face heavy workloads from now until the end of October.

Knowles said they needed to get more referees on board. 

"We need a lot more referees here than most of other provinces because of the amount of activities going on here," he said.

"Those [referees] who are still doing it are pretty passionate about what they do and they make themselves readily available. But there is a problem with the numbers that we are going to reach burn-out quite quickly."

One of the key reasons for the decrease in numbers of referees was believed to be the amount of abuse referees have copped on the field.

That topic was a sticking point for Manawatu Rugby Union life member Owen Gleeson.

"I feel really upset with what is happening on the field to the referees," he said. "It is not only relative to Manawatu, but it is relative around the country."

"We read about players giving back-handers to referees, side-swipes and this type of thing and for me, it boarders on callous. It is not part of rugby as far as I am concerned.

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"We are struggling now to get people out there to referee. They are not going get out there to be abused by foul language and physical abuse. I think it is up to us to stand up and defend that side of the game."

Last year there was much publicity surrounding referee abuse when Freyberg Bs player Pama Paisami punched referee Paul Van Deventer at the end of a match.

Paisami pleaded guilty to the assault at Manawatu District Court and was banned for life from Manawatu rugby and the Freyberg Rugby Club.

According to the rugby union's judicial report, that was the sole case of referee abuse in 2016.

Manawatu Rugby Union chairman Tim Myers said the issue of referee abuse needed to be addressed by the clubs.

"The problem that we all face when it comes to referee abuse is never going to be solved sitting in a board room table downstairs once a month," he said. "We can be as supportive as we like, but until we are actually owning that particular issue where it matters out on the field, we are not going to make much head-way."

"That issue around referee abuse has to be owned by people on the sidelines and it has to be owned by the clubs.

"If a referee is being abused everyone in this room, everyone on the sidelines have an obligation to get up and deal with it. That is how I believe we will stamp it out."

The Manawatu Junior Rugby Board received plenty of positive feedback for their measures taken to stamp out referee abuse.

Included in their initiatives were coaches standing on the dead-ball line, referees wearing fluro vests reminding those on the sidelines they are volunteers and requiring parents to sign sideline behaviour agreements.

 - Stuff

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