We are starting on a sad note this week. We were deeply saddened to see the passing of another of our refereeing colleagues. Ronnie Maher passed away on November 3rd. He was a member of the Leinster Rugby Referees for many many years and also a proud Suttonians man, serving as a player, coach, referee, administrator, photographer, Director of Rugby and President. He was a great friend to many referees in both Leinster and across Ireland and always gave a warm welcome to referees visiting Suttonians and of course, with camera in hand, happily furnished referees with some great photos of their game. He will be deeply missed by all in the Leinster Rugby Referees family. We extend our deepest sympathies to Ronnie’s wife and family. May he Rest in Peace.
We also learned this week of the passing of Blackrock stalwart Joe McDonnell or Joe Mac to the rugby community. Joe was a coach, groundsman and member of the Blackrock for 65 years. Joe will be remembered by all for his total commitment to the Blackrock club, his welcome to referees and the advice he offered. Our sincere condolences go out to Joe’s family.
Given there is, sadly, not a lot of refereeing going on at the moment, I took the time to catch up with one of our up and coming referees, Audrey Fulham, during the week. We talked through Audreys decision to take up refereeing and what she loves about it.
How long are you refereeing and what made you decide to take up the whistle?
This is my third season, although not much happening right now with Covid! I did manage to get a few games in before games ceased and hopefully 2021 will see many more! When I finished college I wanted to start up some new hobbies and began playing tag rugby, which turned into full contact rugby, then refereeing tag rugby and ultimately led to refereeing rugby union.
What was the process like to become a referee and what is the biggest thing you have learned since you started out?
I saw an event on Facebook for an all female referee workshop and decided to attend. It was the first step for me and within a week or so I was given my first match which was U13s boys in Donnybrook. I think my confidence in myself and my abilities has grown considerably since I started refereeing.
What is your training regime like?
I train twice a week in Terenure with a few other referees. We work on speed, movement and endurance in these training sessions. Then I would have a match each weekend, and some weeks I would also have a youth game.
What is your favourite thing about refereeing and what is your most memorable game so far?
I think it’s learning the laws and applying them in matches. It sounds silly but when I was in Maynooth University I studied law and one main aspect of the degree was recognising infringements, applying the appropriate law and advising appropriately. So I feel that what I enjoyed about college applies to refereeing too! Definitely a Metro 2 Clontarf v Old Wesley in Clontarf was my favourite game. It was the day of Storm Denis and it was on the all weather pitch. It was the coldest and wettest match I’ve ever experienced, myself and the teams could barely see through the rain at times but spirits were so high and the game was very enjoyable. It was 0-3 until about 65 minutes in when Old Wesley scored 2 late tries. I’ve never felt cold like that and was never so happy to see a hot shower after!
What is your pre – match routine like?
I always have my kit bag prepared the night before. I wake up and try and start drinking loads of water and eat something hearty. I arrive at the match venue about 1 hour before kick off and greet the coaches, gather team sheets and do my warm up.
Who is your refereeing idol and what are your refereeing aspirations?
I don’t really have a favourite but I love watching Nigel Owens, Joy Neville, George Clancy, Luke Pearce, Angus Gardner and Wayne Barnes. I would love to work on a few things and hopefully within the next couple of seasons get on IPAS with the hopes of getting onto the National Panel.
What will make you improve as a referee and how do you deal with any off field criticism that comes your way?
I think reffing as many games as possible, and being open minded as to what I need to improve on, take criticism positively and trust those who have more experience to give valuable feedback. I think it’s dangerous to assume you’re the best at anything and don’t need help or feedback. Take all the support you can get if being offered. I think every referee has to deal with a bit of stick during games at some point, I certainly have, and I think the way I deal with it is having the confidence in myself and my decisions to look past but also understanding the frustrations. I found that explaining decisions effectively will usually lessen people’s frustrations.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about taking up refereeing?
I think to work past any nerves you might have at the beginning. Taking the first step for me was the hardest part, after that you take each match as it comes and make improvements week to week. It’s extremely enjoyable and surprisingly a great way to meet new people and make some friends. It’s not as lonely as I thought it would be in the beginning.
Do you any self-analysis after games?
Yes I do I have a notebook where I write down everything I hope to achieve in my next game followed by notes after the game of everything that went well and things to think about
We’re hoping to see Audrey back on the pitch as soon as possible and wish her well with her aspirations.
Want to get involved?
Feel free to make contact with the Leinster Rugby Referees at firstname.lastname@example.org If you are interested in becoming a referee get in contact with us through our Facebook and Google + pages, our website www.arlb.ie or through twitter @leinsterreferee.