New focus for rugby referees boss

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Mid Canterbury Rugby referees boss Graham Shaw will be happy on the sidelines of this weekend’s big Watters Cup final.

Methven takes on Rakaia for the district’s big rugby prize but the score won’t matter to Graham because he will be celebrating the work of his team of referees, including Kalifa Faalogo, who has risen through the ranks to number one this season.

It is Graham’s last season managing, educating, recruiting and generally minding the district’s small pool of referees. He says attitudes to referees have changed over the past 20 years and they are now part of the game, with coaches and players seeking them out to discuss changing aspects of play.

Graham, 65, hopes to stay on as a referee coach next year, putting to good use the skills and experience he has accumulated over the past 17 years. He says more referees are always needed.

He picked up the whistle when he was 48 to referee his son’s game; he enjoyed it and decided to continue, it was good for his fitness and to get off farm. He took his fitness one step further and competed in two Coast-to-Coast multisport events.

Graham says being in the onfield action is mostly rewarding. He is privvy to the players’ banter and contributes himself sometimes.

He became friends with Methven halfback Chris Lock. “He respected my job but did point out when he thought I got things wrong. I did the same to him. It was good banter and we got to know each other.”

Graham is hoping a new manager for Mid Canterbury referees will be appointed for next season. The role was 75 per cent funded by New Zealand Rugby, which is in covid recovery.

Helping grow referees has been especially rewarding. The referees’ group has great internal support and support from the union and clubs – they know there is no game without them.

“I think referees over the years have been thought of as third wheels but there is a real push to make them part of rugby.”

Mid Canterbury’s top referee Kalifa Faalogo will refereee the 2020 Watters Cup final.

Graham said Watters Cup final referee Kalifa had grown in the job over five years and was a great role model for other players who could give back to the sport through refereeing. Assistant referees for the game are Hamish Grant, Jock O’Connor and Mike Southby. The final will be at Methven at 2.30pm.

Mid Canterbury referees also farewelled Gary Clement from their ranks this season after 16 years.