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NSW Country Officials hone their skills in the Newcastle Sevens

By Vittorio Travan

An end of season sevens tournament is usually a time for players to enjoy one last hit out before enjoying their summer break. But for ten members of the NSW Country Referees panel, the Newcastle Under 20s sevens tournament provided one last opportunity to further develop their craft.

It was a real opportunity to learn not only from the four NSW Country Referees in attendance – Paul Ryan, Jim McBride, Ian Richardson and Ron Mancell. With every referee getting watched by a referee coach after each game, it was a chance to learn and identify the things they do well but could also work on during the day.

Team of five for the Cup Final. (Bottom Row L-R: Xavier Edwards, Max Fulton, Jarryd Logan; Top L – R: Nik Gaal, Jared Lynch)(Source: Ron Mancell – Facebook)

But with ten referees from right across the country region descending on the Hawthorne Club at Maitland it was also a chance for referees to learn new skills and techniques off each other. Ron Mancell, Referees Development Officer for NSW Country, said the there was a real sense of everyone wanting to build their knowledge for the season ahead.

“One of the biggest difficulties in the country region is that our referees do not always have that same level of and consistency of coaching. We get hamstrung by the distances we have to cover and reduced number of referee coaches that actually work within the country area compared to the Sydney area. So, it’s important at these tournaments that when we have identified referees, we want to give them as much feedback as possible.”

“Without identifying work-ons, referees don’t have the opportunity to learn and progress further with their craft,” said Mancell.

For Jim McBride NSW Country Referee Coach, it was also an opportunity to see referees from other zones he simply had not worked with before. He said, by getting to witness different referees it not only helps coaches but also helps the guys in the middle, as it helps them adapt and better understand how they operate in the middle.

“For us to see referees we haven’t been exposed to it’s really beneficial for us and them. We get to be a fresh set of eyes and watch how they can make their job easier out on the field,” McBride said.

He added that the coaches ask the referees questions to get them to think about why they made decisions and why they do what they do. It helps the referees understand where and how the coaches reflect and view their games, in a way that helps the referees self – reflect on their own skills.

“Ultimately, we want to make sure we are providing them with the advice that can help them progress as far as possible. Yes, we want to challenge them by getting them to think, but if they don’t reflect or think, there is no opportunity to learn,” McBride said.

List of all NSW Country Referees and Referee Coaches in Attendance:

Referees: Max Fulton, Nik Gaal, Jarryd Logan, Jared Lynch, Xavier Edwards, Ben Fisk, Harry Martine, Vittorio Travan, Declan Meagher, Ian Spicer

Coaches: Paul Ryan, Jim McBride, Ian Richardson and Ron Mancell

Newcastle Referee Association Assistant Referees: Peter Meagher, Jackson Bartley and Michael Wallace

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Mr. Consistency appointed to third grand final in four years

After being named the 2018 Referee of the Year it is no surprise that Peter Thomas will take control of the Blowes Clothing Cup First Grade Grand Final.

The former Dubbo Kangaroos break-away has settled in comfortably transitioning from playing to the officiating stables and will be supported by assistant referees Jarrod Simpson and Peter Egan for the contest. Thomas’ appointment for Saturday’s eagerly anticipated clash between the Orange Emu’s and Bathurst Bulldogs will be his third first grand final in the past four seasons.

Ian Richardson, President of the Central West Rugby Referee’s Association, says that it is Thomas’ understanding of the game that makes him a great fit for officiating. “Coming from a player’s background he has a very good feel for what the players are trying to achieve.”

“He talks to both sides very well, and is able to get them to understand what he wants very easily and quite quickly”

Peter Thomas accepting his Referee of the Year Award with Adam Freier. (Source: Nick McGrath)

Richardson pointed out that his calmness and his willingness along with his ability to make effective decisions in the big moments have helped his profile within the game.

“He is naturally just one of those guys that is very calm when he goes out there he is not really fazed by anything.”

It is this attitude that has gained the respect of fans, players and coaches throughout the region. Richardson added, “His ability to adjust his performances is second to none and this has helped him create a style of refereeing that has served him well along with rugby in the Central West.”

 “Ever since joining the officiating ranks, he has always been calm. It is one of his best assets”

Madden after his 150th refereeing appointment(Source: Pete Gutherie)

Meanwhile, in the lower grades Richard Madden will take charge in a repeat of last year’s second grade grand final where the Bulldogs will take on Emu’s.

Mitch Dwyer, fresh of his appointment in last week’s first grade New Holland Agriculture Cup final will run the line with Evelyn George.

George will also have sense of déjà vu as she prepares to take control of the Amanda Ferguson WestFund Cup grand final between CSU Bathurst and Bathurst Bulldogs.

Brandon Kreymborg and Vittorio Travan will help as her linesmen, in what shapes to be one of the fiercest contests of the day. George controlled the women’s final last year.

L-R: Travan in action during Week 1 of the finals. (Source: Central West Daily – Nick McGrath); Top Right – Simpson during last year’s finals. (Source: Matt Findlay); Bottom – Evelyn George will control the Amanda Ferguson WestFund Cup final. (Source: Mudgee Guardian – Ben Harris)

CSU Bathurst student Vittorio Travan will control his second final in as many years with the third-grade final between Emu’s and Bulldogs, with Murray Reay and Kreymborg running the line.

Jarrod Simpson will referee the colt’s final when the Dubbo Kangaroos take on Orange City, where he will be assisted by Mitch Dwyer and Peter Egan.

Richardson thanked all the officials for their involvement during the year and for the support they were giving rugby in this region.

He added, “I hope all referees to go out there and enjoy themselves and I encourage you all to make the calls that you have to be make.”

“But most importantly come off having done a great job and enjoying the finals experience and hopefully the players will decide the games”

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Referee Numbers the Final Frontier for Central West Rugby

By Vittorio Travan

The growth of Central West Rugby is undeniable, but finding career referees is the next step in securing the long-term future of rugby in the region. Despite celebrating a renaissance under a 2018 competition restructure, there is now a real push to find and nurture the next generation of rugby match officials.

With only six of the region’s referees born after 1990, plans are underway to address the growing age gap. The Central West Rugby Union Referee’s Association (CWRURA) have only 48 referees registered for active roles this season.

With three of the six referees born after 1980 still in high school, they are the only identified talent looking to rejuvenate the Association. In a recent board meeting, earlier in May the CWRURA identified a need to address the issue, by encouraging talent identification through the junior systems.

Ian Robertson, Cowra Eagle’s President and CWRURA member says by securing and identifying young referees, rugby in the region will be in safe hands. He said, “We just want to offer an opportunity for these young kids to see some exceptional rugby from the best seat in the house.”

“There is a real need to fix this, as without true talent identification of young local refs in the region, we could face an interesting situation,” Mr. Robertson said.

Under the current scheme Central West Juniors appoints all referees to juniors matches on a club to appoint basis. Despite all games being filled for juniors matches this is not always the case for seniors and there is a need to progress this talent into the seniors ranks.

The proposed scheme will see the unification of referees in the juniors and seniors’ system that will widen the resources of available referees. Mr. Robertson says by pooling all referees under the one banner, it will help ensure the longevity of refereeing in the region.

“We don’t want to lose anyone from rugby. We don’t want to lose players, referees, volunteers, coaches or administrators. So, we need to make sure we have the right pathways in place to ensure no one is lost,” Mr Robertson said.

From left to right: Andrew Lees, Angus Gardner (top), Will Houston (bottom) [Sourced: Rugby Week, Rugby Referee.net. and Rugby Australia]

The sentiment was reinforced by Alex Richards, Referee Education Coordinator for NSW Rugby, who says schemes like the Rugby Australia School Scholarship are in place to address this issue. The scholarship selects school level referees from right across Australia who have been identified by either their local schools or referee associations.

The program has developed the likes of Angus Gardner, Will Houston and Andrew Lees who have gone on to referee at Super Rugby and International level. The scheme is just one the avenues the CWRURA sees as a key to keeping young referees involved with the game and exposing local talent to representative pathways.

This year Kinross Wolaroi referee Fraser Robertson landed a spot in the Rugby Australia School Student Scholarship (SSS), continuing years of country referees who have been identified through the scheme. Through the scholarship Robertson was involved in high level referee coaching, meetings with Super Rugby referee teams and a specialized scrum school held by NSW Rugby.

Fraser Robertson (in orange) taking charge of the Stanford v Kings 16As game earlier this month

Similarly, Jamie McGregor, Match Official Manager for Community Rugby for Rugby Australia, said these program aim to curve the drop off of in involvement when kids leave school. He says the program is aimed at giving young referees the right push to help them reach the heights they want to achieve.

McGregor said, “Every year there are recipients who represent the country regions and if they stick with refereeing we have found within a few years they will be refereeing at the top level in their country zones within a few years.”

He said the SSS scheme along with the representative pathway of NSW Country Referees, promote an experience that can attract students and keep them refereeing once they leave school. It’s the experience, excitement and the range of opportunity available to referees that has McGregor excited.

McGregor said, “We have a large base of school referees and we are hoping these programmes encourage referees to continue with their talent once they finish school.”