Horowhenua-Kapiti rugby referee celebrates 150 games in the hot seat

Michael McNamara officiates the 2015 Horowhenua-Kapiti premier rugby final between Paraparaumu and Waikanae at the Levin ...
Randall Walker

Michael McNamara officiates the 2015 Horowhenua-Kapiti premier rugby final between Paraparaumu and Waikanae at the Levin Domain.

He's been making the big decisions for 16 years and now, one of the Horowhenua-Kapiti rugby fraternity's most recognisable faces,  has clocked up his 150th game in the middle.

Referee Michael McNamara reached the milestone by officiating Paraparaumu's 13-9 win over Shannon at the Paraparaumu Domain on Saturday. 

Since making his senior grade debut  he has officiated at  seven H-K grand finals, including the last five in a row. 

A Paraparaumu local, McNamara played for Kapiti College, but not to a high level. 

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His contribution to community rugby started at Te Atiawa Park, volunteering for young son Dale's rugby teams, refereeing half a game each weekend. 

The family shifted up north in 2001, and the Wanganui Rugby Football Union were looking for referees. 

"I love the game. I know it's a cliche," he said.  "I enjoy being involved in the game at a community rugby level." 

His first game was a baptism by fire, with Marist facing Marton at Spriggens Park. 

"It was a good day. The irony of it was I sent a player off the field for fighting ... I just saw him throw a couple of punches at an opposition player. 

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"I was pretty nervous, but I had some good touch judges at the time, who were both senior referees themselves." 

The grand final days are among his highs, but he has seen lows too.

McNamara was in the middle when Levin Athletic hooker Khesanh Tafeamaalii suffered a neck injury against Paraparaumu last year. The match was called off following the incident.

He had also been threatened. "It didn't go too far, and I've never felt a danger of any physical harm." 

McNamara said being consistent with his rulings was the most important aspect to good refereeing  and over time  respect from the players grew.  

Physically, his fitness regimen is on par with some players. He's in the gym four times a week for aerobic work. 

After Saturday's game Shannon presented him with a tie, while Paraparaumu shouted him a few drinks.

He paid tribute to his wife  Kay, who was presented with a bouquet of flowers by the Horowhenua-Kapiti Rugby Football Union. 

"For 150 Saturdays I haven't been there for most of the day." 

By season's end, McNamara will have officiated about 160 senior games, but he  was unsure whether he could do another 50. 

"I don't know whether 200 is attainable. It's hard to tell," he said. 

"I'm not looking too far ahead." 

 - Stuff

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