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Thread: New Ref : First Game : My post match thoughts/report.

  1. #1

    Referees in England

    Bristol Society
    ELRA 2
    Join Date
    26 Sep 09

    Post New Ref : First Game : My post match thoughts/report.

    So, after passing my ELRA two seasons back, I finally got round to actually reffing my first game today. A level 11 adult game - a couple of ‘seconds’ teams - but still a league match, so the result was (I presume) important. And, to be honest, by the end of the game I felt truly awful.

    What follows now is a write up of today’s experience. This is firstly for me to write it down so I have something to reflect on, but secondly to allow some of the more experienced refs, if they are patient enough to read this, to give me some honest, but also constructive criticism and advice to help me move forward.

    A quick overview of me: 43 years old, ex junior football referee (few years), and never really played rugby since leaving school. I got ‘into’ rugby 2 years ago when my son, who is pretty good, started playing. To help support him, and his team/club, I decided to take the ELRA. With my local society short of refs at the moment, I was encouraged to actually start reffing, and got assigned my first game today.

    I was pretty nervous going into this. I’d been going through the rule book as much as I could, and felt confident that I knew a good majority of the laws. For reasons unknown, I was woken at 3am last night with cramp in both calves. Not sure if it was stress related, but they were still aching when I got to the ground today.

    I arrived at the ground an hour before the kickoff, with my son who came to watch. Was a little nervous, but not too bad at that point, got changed and did a pitch inspection. All well and good so far. Half an hour before the game I went to each team, did a boot inspection (found a missing stud which I got them to fix), and did a team talk with FR (+replacements) & the captains. I was a little stuttery here, but covered what I wanted to, ensuring the CTPA, and agreed with both captains rolling subs. All still good, and I was feeling reasonable.

    Quarter to three, I go through a small warm-up routine, stretching muscles and doing some short runs.

    Three o’clock came, I did the toss up, and ensured both teams were ready. I then blew my whistle to start the game, the kick was made, and I went completely blank. Utter rabbit in headlight moment.

    It probably took three minutes before I was able to actually referee to any level at all! By then I believe I missed a number of offenses, which the players were only to keen to point out. I attempted to brush this off and then tried to do what I could. I’d also realised that I hadn’t started either stopwatch, so ended up just using the actual time to work out when the half would finish!

    From then on, I believe I was equitable. I was equally poor to both sides!

    I was, apparently, missing quite a few offences in the mauls/rucks. My positioning at that point wasn’t that bad (I don’t think), but in reflection, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was seeing half the time. Just a mass of bodies. I know the laws about handling in rucks, and being on your feet to get involved, coming in from the back, but it didn’t help. To be honest, I think I was just swamped with the amount of things that I was supposed to be looking at, that I didn’t really look at anything properly. I was also missing a few people creeping in from the sides. Apparently there was a lot of players on the floor pulling people down, and people not being released.

    Here then came a problem, which I caused, then compounded, which became a vicious circle.

    I missed things. I knew that, and the players knew that. Some of the players, from both sides, were being a little vocal about it, and the captains were passing some feedback/queries to me, questioning laws etc that I had missed. I know, in reflection, I should have done more at that point to stamp it out. However, I felt so guilty for missing things, and I felt they were almost justified to complain. I felt it would have been worse if I missed an offence by black, then penalised red for complaining about me missing it. In a way I felt I had caused the problem, so they weren’t in the wrong. However, their comments compounded my issues as I became more and more aware of the fact that I wasn’t quite up to it, which made me feel more and more incompetent. So a downward slope crept in.

    Both teams were guilty of dissent. Not the entirety of each team, at least I didn’t hear it from all of the players, but I’d say both were equally bad. Both captains questioned many instances, decisions (or lack of them): what is ‘normal’ comments/feedback from captains? I don’t even know what I should expect from them!

    I continued on, trying to do my best, keeping up with play reasonable well, but I allowed the murmurs of dissent to continue. Then, halfway through the first half, I pulled my left calf muscle. Not bad enough to go off, but it slowed me down, and I was limping at times. The pain from this was a distraction I didn’t need as I knew I was already struggling.

    In hindsight, the teams could have cut me a little slack, and given me more chance to actually referee instead of complaining all the time, but I am also aware that they did have something ‘real’ to complain about.

    It continued on until about 5 minutes before half time, when I’d had enough of the dissent, and was feeling pretty damn miserable. I didn’t want to be on the pitch any more. I called both captains to me, and explained my situation: That it was my first game, I knew I’d made mistakes and I was sorry, but I was doing my best to give them a game of rugby. They appeared to accept this, and both then got their teams into a huddle to try and calm things. The rest of the first half went without major incident.

    The second half was pretty similar to the first. I missed a few things, was accused of missing more (I’m aware that they will try to claim things that weren’t real). About 10 minutes in, my right calf goes, and I’m even slower at getting to places, but soldiered on and never ended up too far away from things.

    I felt, quite often at the breakdowns, that I was ‘in the way’, so I think my positioning was not as good as it should have been. I was on the side that the ball was going to come out, to try and get a head start to keep with play, but often found myself in the way of a pass and players telling me to move, or nudging me out of the way.

    Scrums, I think went pretty well, and I didn’t get any negative comments back from the players. A few calls of ‘not straight sir’, but for the most part, they went well. No collapses, forced ups, offsides, and only one re-set for coming together way too early.

    I believe I made two major mistakes, which both allowed a score that shouldn’t have stood, one for each side (one apparently went into touch just before the score, the other apparently had a knock on before the score) However, I’d made my calls, so couldn’t go back on them. However, even that ended equitable I guess, as it equalled out with both sides profiting from them. (not intentional balance though!)

    There was a little handbags towards the end of the second half, but I stopped it quick, and it appeared to dissipate.

    For the most part, I think I was able to keep on top of the ‘law’ aspect of the game. (if I ignore the fact I missed jumping early in a lineout). When I actually saw something, I knew what to do next. I had one point when I was going to give a scrum for a missed drop goal, but did change that to a 22 dropout on the insistence of players. That was a mistake too I guess in hindsight. I also had one time when I stopped the game at a breakdown, there was a little skirmish that then happened, then when we got back to the game, I’d completely forgotten what I’d stopped the game and needed the players to remind me!

    The game ended at a close 31-29, and when it did I was so relieved to get off the pitch and into the changing rooms. I was happy that I’d actually finished the game though; what with the two calf injuries, and all the dissent I’d suffered, and the amount of things I knew I’d missed, there was a couple of points in the game where I just wanted to walk away and go home, never looking back.

    I hobbled upstairs to the bar after the game, wondering what to expect, but people actually spoke to me, and were polite about it! Apparently I wasn’t the worst ref they’d had this season, which may not say much for the other one! I was given some ‘pointers’, saying to concentrate more on knock-ons and offsides more in my next game, as they were more important to the game. But this was from an ex-player/spectator so not sure of the advice. Both coaches were very polite and pleasant, which eased some of my worries.

    What I took away from this ‘experience’:
    My positioning needs
    • Work to get out of the way or the play & players, but still allowing me to keep up.
    • I need to work on sprint training to try and build up calves. I usually do distance running in the gym, so I think this should change to try and prevent calf pulls.
    • Somehow, I need to take control of the game, and be more confident with what I’m doing, to help the players respect my decisions, even if they are wrong. I guess this comes with experience/time.
    • I need to stamp on dissent somehow (even if I feel guilty about doing it!) to stop it bringing me, and the game down, and stop it spreading. This won’t be easy, as I feel inferior to them with my lack of rugby experience.
    • Somehow I need to learn exactly what to look for in breakdowns, so I can actually see all of the offences.
    • I need to be more vocal. In my nervous state, I was signalling advantage, but rarely calling it. (I did call when advantage over). I didn’t call most mauls/rucks. I didn’t really get any (good) communication going with the teams. (I think the dissent and my poor performance contributed to that).

    Whilst I’m aware of some of the issues, there are probably more. A big problem I have is knowing ‘how’ to deal with them though, to ensure that I’ve improved. Not really many resources of places to get ref ‘training’.

    A bigger problem will be getting up the courage to go through all this again though. I really don’t want to feel ‘beaten’ though, and hate the idea that I may have ‘failed’, so I will ref again if I can get to the point where I feel that I’ve actually improved on a number of areas.

    Today wasn’t pleasant. Some of it was caused by the two teams, and their handling of a first time referee, but by no means all. I know I was poor, and I hated it. I didn’t expect to flounder quite that much, despite it being my first game and my zero experience as a player. I am quite self-critical, to a fault, and everything compounded together today to something that I really don’t want to experience again.

    Update: I have just received a voice-mail (damn phone signal) call from the chairman of the home side’s club. He has apologised, profusely, for the behaviour of his side’s treatment of me. Not sure how he’d heard about it (he wasn’t at the game), but he was appalled by their actions. At this point I found out exactly how wound up I’ve been about it all, as I broke down in tears at hearing his words. I don’t think I’ve ever reacted like that to non-life-critical things!

  2. #2

    Referees in America
    ckuxmann's Avatar

    Join Date
    12 Apr 09
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    Default Re: New Ref : First Game : My post match thoughts/report.

    That's to bad to hear, you're going to hear it a lot I'm assuming that it only gets better which is completely true.

    The one thing that I'll address is your positioning, why do you feel that you were in the way, as in where were you in relation to the rucks?
    I'm assuming you were very close to the ruck and were in line of the crash ball. To remedies if your fast you can go behind the rucks (not recommended, but you can see some things here that you won't recognize I figured out my positioning with help from this forum and this position). The other which really works for me, is get into the ruck and then realize the side that has won the ball, and then once realized move about 5-7m out away from the ruck there is normally a gap where the forwards stop and the backs start which you can easily step into once the ball is out allowing the offense to go on attack.

    Happy to talk any time

  3. #3

    Referees in England

    Level 6+1
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    08 Nov 07

    Default Re: New Ref : First Game : My post match thoughts/report.

    What a hugely brave and honest post. Not got time to offer any detailed solutions at the moment, other than to say it gets better, get back on the horse ASAP. It can only get better.

    I'm sure the good folk of will rally round to help you.

    Don't give up it is worth it no one said it was an easy hobby!

  4. #4
    Rugby Club Member peperami's Avatar

    Join Date
    02 Feb 04

    Default Re: New Ref : First Game : My post match thoughts/report.


    First things first, much kudos to you for the way that you have taken up the whistle. It will get better as time goes on and you will find that experience helps. The more games you do the more you have seen before and understand what is happening.

    You did several things that where right from the very start, You should be there an hour or so before the game that allows you time to adjust to your surroundings and get your game head on as well as complete all the little things that you want to do. Big plus for doing a front row brief and getting accross the things you wanted. It also sounds that you managed scrum time during the game as if there were issues they would have left you know afterwards.

    A tip for your front row brief, write it down and practice it until you are comfortable and confident with it.

    I would suggest that you need to stamp on the dissent early and hard, set your standard to the captain and then ask tell and penalise through if you need to. Interestingly I did a game today where dissent was a problem, and I had to issue a number of penalties against both sides for it. I spoke to the captains to deal with it during the game and they tried, based on the rollocking they gave their teams. After the game I spoke to the captains and they agreed it seems to be creeeping into the game more and whats needed is it being quashed.

    I would also suggest looking at the communication hints and tips on here and try to work a little on this. Basically be specific colour and number, be brief and dont enter discussions.

    Most of all try and relax and enjoy it.

    Out of interest what Society are you in, a L11 merit game seems a strong game to start with.

    Good luck, and ask all the questions you want

  5. #5

    Referees in England
    Lee Lifeson-Peart's Avatar

    (South) Yorkshire Referee's Society
    Level 7
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    12 Mar 08

    Default Re: New Ref : First Game : My post match thoughts/report.

    I think L11 is quite high for first game. Mine was about L13 but just a friendly and like you I found it hard. I had played for 20 years and had reffed juniors for 3 years. The fact you can reflect on the experience will stand you in good stead. It will be a lot easier next time - honest.

    It will look better in the morning.
    It's like a big tide of jam coming towards us, but jam made out of old women......Father Dougal McGuire 1998

  6. #6

    Referees in England

    Southern RL
    Rugby League
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    31 Oct 10

    Default Re: New Ref : First Game : My post match thoughts/report.

    Just remember: John Lennon was crap the first time he picked up a guitar.

  7. #7

    Referees in England
    Davet's Avatar

    Hampshire RURS (UK)
    Society Assessor
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    27 Jan 04


    Sounds par for the course for a first game, especially as you have not come from a regularly playing background.

    You will start to get your eye in and begin to see what is going on, but you will suffer for a few games. Suck it up, treat it as a learning curve and itcwill get better quite quickly, I promise.

    Positioning - at breakdown get in close first, locate the ball and ensure tackler release and ball release, then move away to the side, towards the near touchline if you can so you are looking at the open side - get in the space between the two offside lines, far enough away so you are not impeding the crash ball, but close enough to see hands etc. Don't stand still.

    You will always miss things and players will keep telling you if you don't shut them up. If you've missed it how do you know it happened, they'll tell you anything.

    Sprint training would be good, yes you need stamina, but you must, repeat must, develop the speed to be first at the breakdown - then you get a good clear view!

    Baptism of fire over, it will get better.
    “We raise the watchword, liberty. We will, we will, we will be free!"
    George Loveless 1834
    Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.
    Thomas Paine 1776

  8. #8

    Referees in England
    DrSTU's Avatar

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    24 Dec 08

    Default Re: New Ref : First Game : My post match thoughts/report.

    I remember my first match very well, exactly the same experiences. Passed the law tests, raring to go, blow the whistle and BOOM, shit, where did all that preparation and knowledge go!

    What the players and new refs don't realise is how much is going on at once. It's not like a "normal" sport where usually only one thing is happening at once, even the most benign phases of play have multiple things to watch for. This does get easier with time as it becomes more instinctive than reactive. I barely think on the pitch (in a good way!), it's all about how things fit into patterns and how things should look but you're going to learn that over time.

    I still think that writing down 3 aims for the game and trying to achieve those is the best way to progress. Maybe yours could be:

    1: Get into a good position from which to be able to see the ball
    2: Cut back on dissent
    3: Ref the game in 20 min blocks, reset my standards every 20.

    Keep at it, it does get easier and is very enjoyable (even the very tough games have their hidden gems)

  9. #9

    Referees in Australia
    SimonSmith's Avatar

    Central Australian Rugby Referees
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    27 Jan 04

    Default Re: New Ref : First Game : My post match thoughts/report.

    That may make my shortlist for post of the year - thank you.

    It was very honest. it also made me step back and think for a bit. I've been refereeing for a while, and took a big step back when I came to the States. I think I've forgotten what hell can be like when you start off.
    It's easy for us to pass on advice like we did in the other thread; in the end, it all boils down to you, and your whistle.

    I remember my first game at Eastleigh, with their 3rds. My preparation - I jest not - had been "got a whistle? good. here's a Law Book - good luck at Eastleigh"

    I'm pretty sure I lived on sheer brass neck for a while; I'm also 'psychologically lucky' - I never got the first time nerves. I made it an absolute competition between me and them, and I don't back down from competition.

    You're going to get better. and it's going to get easier. Change one thing a game and get that right. I can pretty much guarantee that however many mistakes you made, the teams probably made more.

    Keep us updated.
    The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.
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    Man may do as he will; he may not will what he wills
    Arthur Schopenhauer

    Tullamore Dew, the Afghan Wigs, and many, many strippers - how to get over your ex. How true.

  10. #10

    Referees in Wales
    Taff's Avatar

    Llanelli District
    WRU Level 2
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    23 Aug 09

    Default Re: New Ref : First Game : My post match thoughts/report.

    Psychic, you're not alone mate. There was so much in your post that sounded familiar, you would not believe.

    If you don't believe me, have a quick look at my debut HERE. Even some of the phrases you used were virtually identical to ones I used.

    I used the phrase "emotionally mugged" after my car crash fisrt game; the chances are that's exactly how you feel at the moment.

    I haven't got time to give you a proper reply at the moment; I'll get you a better one later but in the meantime if it's any consolation to you my first one was by far and away my worst, and after about 6 games you actually get to enjoy them.
    Last edited by Taff; 09-10-11 at 08:10.

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