FRIDAY REVIEW - DANIEL O'CONNELL


Dan’s weekly wrap up – BombAy vs Admore Marist Premier


Week:

We usually find out what games we are going to get Monday evenings after our Referee meetings.

I was very excited to see I had one of the games of the week – Bombay vs Ardmore Marist Premiers.

Both teams whom are skilled, structured but at the same time love free flowing rugby. I have refereed both teams numorous amount of times and believe I have built a decent relationship with each team. It was safe to say I was looking forward to a good game of rugby.

Preparing for the game usually consists of a couple of runs &/or a couple games of high intensity squash. I am a huge advocate of fitness when it comes to refereeing. Rugby is an extremely difficult game to referee. A referee has to make decisions in split seconds. Trying to do this after running around for 80mins is hard but one of the great challenges I enjoy and love as a referee.

Friday night is spent watching games on television and listening to the game on the ‘referee only’ audio option. It’s great listening to the best referees manage players to get the best result for the game. My flat mates however think it’s weird and very ‘stalker like’.


Game day:

Game day starts by having a big breakfast in the morning and a small lunch in the early afternoon. This way I feel fuled and ready to go.

I am always nervous before premier games. I believe Counties Manukau has some of the best rugby in the country. Not only do we have skills and flare but we have physicality that is above what I have seen elsewhere, especially around the breakdown. The players are always (for the most part) performing at their best, so I must uphold to a standard specific to the calibre of that game.

The game itself was just as I expected – Fast and physical.

It started with players being quite fiesty and intense. I like to have a democratic style to refereeing, working with players to achieve a good game. However there are times where a dictatorship has to be implemented to gain control in what can be high intensity moments.  A great test for a referee to not get flustered by players and to remain composed. This lead to several penalities, a penalty try and a yellow card. Even though this seems extensive, it worked. The second half was filled with positive, open play that tested both teams and allowed them to define the outcome of the game, not me. It’s up to the referee to make sure that this standard is continued throughout the rest of the game. This means talking to players on the run to let them know of errors you didn’t penalise them for but to not do again. Managing players around set piece to make sure we continue free flowing rugby and not reset scrums 100 times.

Players are the ones who make the game exciting and thrilling to watch. They are the ones that bring crowds, excite people and turn this great game into what we love. I feel a referee’s role is simply a facilitator to make sure players uphold to their full potential and play in a positive spirit.

Even though the game was tight for the first half and beginning of the second. Bombay managed to pick up towards the end of the game and run away with it. Final score 42-25.

It was great doing this game with two friends of mine – Brandon Roberts and Lomaks Tangihaere. Both saving my skin by getting in great positions around the in-goal to make sure we are getting the important stuff. I believe we were also the youngest trio on a Premier fixture in the history of the club, a huge milestone.


Post game:

Post game is usually spent enjoying a beer and decompressing from the game. I’m usually physically and mentally shattered, so I like to review and debrief on things I could have done better or differently. These conversations will happen with reviewers, my coach and fellow referees.

On a side note, we received a nice message from the Admore Marist club with a chilly bin filled with beers. I took an image of this and sent it to ‘Veitchy on Sport’ which is Tony Veitche's facebook page. He shared this post and it managed to get 1,800 likes. My aim with this was to show that not all rugby is filled with abuse, that there are some people who respect the voluntary role of a referee. Showing positive messages instead of negative ones is in my eye much more effective in getting more referees to our game.