The Odyssey, part I, with emphasis on the ‘Odd’

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Featured in this photo is Angus (wearing the white T-shirt) who is arguably the smallest and most adorbs referee in the world.  He’s refereeing at the BaaBaas rugby day, and those kids around him are about 9.

So, where were we?

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Scrum, green. A scrum. No, a scrum. Scrum, it’s a scrum, would all the forwards please come here it is a scrum *repeat forever*

Girls rugby. As much as I mock it (And I mock it a lot) I quite like secondary schoolgirls rugby and I think it’s bullshit that referees associations guarantee referees for boys games but not girls ones.

So off I trundled to Western Springs (a school which forcefully reminded me of my own high school) to referee Western Springs vs Mt Roskill Grammar. This year it’s 12-a-side, up from 10-a-side, with 6 forwards and 6 backs.

The field was interesting. First I noted it was small. Then I noted it seemed even smaller because there were league markings on it. Try explaining where a five metre scrum is, when there’s no five metre marking and there’s no 22 either.

In fact, the “what in the Lord’s name is a scrum?” thing was amusing. Regularly I was left standing as both teams retreated back 10 metres with my arm out saying “Scrum. It’s a scrum. The ball’s gone forward. Please all the forwards come here. That means six of you.” Not only had no one explained the signals, they all seemed utterly confused when I did try to explain it. it wasn’t helpful that I was losing my voice and so signals were what we had to communicate with.

After 45ish minutes of regular confusion, Mt Roskill won by a huge margin. I think both teams had fun though.

No updates for this weekend as I have laryngitis and won’t be refereeing unless I feel loads better by Sunday. This has a silver lining though, because Otahuhu College apparently ate my flags, and I haven’t got any new ones yet.

Western Springs is just 4.5 km from my house, thankfully.

THANKY!!

As you may know, my Pledgeme campaign to get me to Sydney has reached its target, and I am eternally grateful to everyone who has helped me get this far. However, I set the target at my lowest necessary goal, and I thought I would add an incentive to encourage anyone who was thinking about pledging.

Should this project reach $1000, I promise to travel to Sydney wearing a onesie. There will be photos. There will be video. There will be funny looks from security personnel.

There you have it  – Should I raise a grand, I will make even more of an idiot of myself than usual. And that’s not all! You, my strange and wonderful readers (all four of you) will get a chance to help pick what kind of onesie I’m going to wear. Pick one of these answers, or add your own! The winning onesie will be the one with the most votes when I cross the $1000 threshold.

Again, thank you heaps for contributing!

And rugby was the winner on the day

It’s a cliché that everyone loves to trot out, but my first game on Saturday really was a game of two halves. I trundled down to Otahuhu at a time I would classify as ‘only moderately obnoxiously early for a Saturday’  to referee Otahuhu versus St Kent’s seconds. St Kent’s were warming up as I got there, looking well-drilled and put together. Only a handful of their opposition had showed up, and as it got closer and closer to kickoff I worried there was going to be a default because not enough players were showing up. But they got there, in dribs and drabs, and by kickoff time they had a full squad and were only 2 minutes late onto the field.

(side note: when you have two games kicking off 75 minutes apart, and a game takes 65 minutes minimum, it would be really nice to get everyone on the field early. And as much as I try to make it happen, the players and team coaches know that despite all my posturing, I can’t actually start the game without them.)

As was expected, St Kents were much the better side in the first half, and I spent a lot of time getting Otahuhu to leave the ball alone in the rucks. Scrums were a slight mess to start with, but judicious use of free kicks sorted that out speedily, and the game was well structured and rolling along nicely in St Kent’s favour.

Then came the second half. And for whatever reason St Kent’s fell apart. 

It started with a try which came from a kick-trough with a fortuitous bounce. Having followed play I was not in  the best position, so I saw the Otahuhu player ground the ball with his body, but as I blew the whistle there were howls of a knock on, which I couldn’t see because of the try-scorer’s body position. There was moaning and outrage. The St Kent’s captain came haring over to me, demanding to have the decision changed and I told him to calm down, because  two seconds before the try, one of his players had taken out the leading Otahuhu chaser with a soccer-style slide, sprigs up and all – So I was either awarding this try, or awarding a penalty try and if I awarded the penalty try he was losing a player, so would he like to reconsider his yelling?
 
He reconsidered very quickly, all things considered.
 
From there, Otahuhu scored three more tries considerably less controversial, and by full-time had racked up 28 points versus 13. 
 
The second game was under 14s, and at that level your job is as much to coach as it is to referee. Actual coaches, please can we teach our young players crouching for a scrum involves bending your knees, not just folding over at the waist? Because although seeing one front row slowly tip forward into the mud is highly amusing, I think I strained something trying not to laugh out loud.
 
It was 17.2 km from home to Otahuhu and 22.8 back, because I got lost and took the wrong motorway.

What do you mean you don’t know what team you are?

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It was another Saturday of two games, but bugger me if I knew who the games were actually between. My draw said I had Kings and Mcleans 4B, then Kings and Mcleans 4A. What I eventually worked out had most likely gone down was Kings 4A versus Mcleans 4B, then Kings 4B versus Mcleans 2nd XV. Both games were, as you could probably guess, mostly one way traffic in the direction of the higher graded team. 

The confusion wasn’t helped by one Kings team not having a coach, and the Mcleans seconds coach having a bit of an attitude. (Insisting kickoff was at 10:45, when I had it down for 10:30.)

The first game was the much better one, few penalties, everyone kept their temper, I kept a good eye on everything.

The second game was chaotic, had a couple of obnoxious spectators, and halfway through I had to have a serious “I am getting angry” talk with the Kings captain about how I had about ten million better things I could be doing than listening to a teenager be whiny and sarcastic and so if he didn’t pull his head in I was going to send him off.

I can handle most things but whining makes me want to go postal. No punches were thrown, either by the teams or by me.

By the end of the game I was starting to feel like I had refereed three games in 18 hours and I wasn’t sure my hamstrings would survive. I’m pleased to report they did.

From work, to Kings College, to home was 33 km.

P.S PLEASE SPONSOR ME TO GO TO THE BINGHAM CUP. IT’S REALLY SPENDY! I’M RATHER BROKE! I’LL STOP BUGGING EVERYONE IF YOU DO! thanky.

Resentment…

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I don’t think I’ve felt as annoyed by the prospect of having a game to do as I felt today. I was tired, I was busy, I did not want to have to get up, get changed, and go yell at 14 year olds. This resentment was further deepened by the fact I never travel at rush hour, so I grossly underestimated the time it would take to get to Liston College, meaning I was really late.

And I have two games tomorrow. I need to think to myself that I don’t have to volunteer for everything… Or that I should wait a little longer before volunteering so that someone else can first.

But anyway. LAST weekend, before we crack on to another one. It was a day of two games – and they were two very different games. First I had a trip down to St Kentigerns to referee their under 15s against Wesley.

I played one advantage for foul play (a try was scored from it) and other than that nothing – it was clean, it was fast, it left me showing I am slow. It was a fabulous game on a fabulous day and I came away from it tired but happy. It was well worth the 45.4 km round trip to get there from my house.

Now I come to a thorny question – do I count kilometers travelled in someone else’s car? I think I do, though I’ll note how many and separate it out. I got a lift with one of the Falcons to their game against Eden – and trust me, it gets awkward when the bloke giving you a lift places is the one you firmly tell to cool his heels on the sideline. But we’re friends again now. I think.

I’m not refereeing them this weekend, and I think it’ll be good for them to have someone else dealing with them for a bit.

That was merely 9.6 km from my house to the ground to Ponsonby rugby club for the aftermatch. Shout-out to B.G. Williams for making us both awed and very welcome.

And then today. Under 14s, Liston v Kelston – neighbouring schools so the boys know each other and they’re ready for a scrap. It was all about control – controlling tempers, controlling the time, controlling the urge to give up and let them duke it out.

I had two yellow cards, one from each team for the same offence – deliberate, aimed no arms tackle. As they both protested I had to give them a warning, I said that was their warning – they got to come back on the field 10 minutes later.

Last year I learned something which I hadn’t needed to know in Wellington – the appropriate amount of respect to give the team’s captain. Even if he’s 14, he’s in a leadership position, which gives him an amount of mana in the game. If I don’t respect that, he and his players will not respect me. Eventually I managed to get buy-in from both captains: Their players were effing and blinding, so I called them over and said  “There are ladies and little children here. They shouldn’t hear f-words and c-words from your players.” That was enough to get them onside with me – a reminder that they were in charge of 14 other boys, and an appeal to the better side of their masculinity.

The captains behaved, the teams behaved better, and the second half saw some great running rugby. Liston came out on top 15-5, and no punches were thrown. I blew the final whistle just before the heavens opened and it poured.

It was a 24.2 km journey, and it was hard work right from beginning to end.

So, if I add in Tuesday’s game, In one week, for four games I travelled 122 kilometers. The orange petrol light continues to mock me.

Tomorrow, two games at Kings College. That’s 6 in 8 days, if you’re keeping track.

 

Some observations

I’m not going to write about the weekend because I don’t want to and it’s my blog. I’ll do it on Thursday, poke me about it or something.

Instead I’m going to write about today, when despite having dragged my barely-concious self out of bed at 4 am to go to work, an email came asking for someone to referee at Sacred Heart this afternoon, and I said yes. I’m a compulsive volunteer. I may need an intervention.

Anyway, here’s some things I realised on the way.

1) I may make fun of the ARRA’s slim-fit uniforms, but they’re actually much nicer than trying to referee in a tent. Due to me being a normal human being with a job and things, I hadn’t washed my kit from Saturday and wow, it smelled nasty. I thus wore my old Wellington kit, which despite being sized ‘small’ could fit two of me in there. I looked like a scarecrow and kept getting my elbows tangled.

2) Head injuries are no fun. One kid copped an accidental sprig to the head, cutting his forhead open and sending him to la-la-land. (Note to any ARRA folk reading: yes, I filled out the serious injury form. Form, then blog – I got it.) I played my best older brother – kinda tough as I’m the youngest of four brothers – and told him there was no need for him to try and get up, that he could lie down if it was better, and then asked inane questions to try and keep him awake. He went to hospital with a suspected broken eye-socket. Poor boy, hope he’s feeling better soon.

3) Sacred Heart is a really long drive to get to from West Auckland. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was more motorways, but it’s all a tiki-tour through Remuera. A mere 21.4 km takes 26 minutes. And when you try and get back during rush hour, it takes 50 minutes. I refereed for 50 minutes. This is a very poor travel-to-game time ratio.

4) My GPS is learning. The voice is learning to pronouce Maori names – what was once R’moo-ra is now Rem-ewe-ra. I’m not sure how I feel about this. It’s nice not to have to guess the directions based on dodgy phonics, but the idea my GPS is capable of independent study weirds me out. 

It still calls Waitakere “Way-taker” though. So it’s not smarter than me yet.

A particularly aggravating 42.8 km added to the total.

Okay so…

Yeah, I’ve not exactly been making with the updates.  But I have been making with the refereeing, and I have been keeping track of the kilometres.

Last Friday marked something interesting and kind of impressive  – the first time this year I travelled to referee in something other than my Toyota. I was lucky enough to get in on the opportunity to referee rippa rugby for little Blues Day, and I travelled to and from Eden Park by train. It was a great event, I took my boots off, as all the kids were barefoot and I didn’t want to spike anyone. The grass on Eden Park is very nice, if a little squishy.

I have a team, my team has a coach, and it’s nice to feel part of something like that again. It’s awesome to see the guys who have never played rugby before this season get super into it, making tackles and passing the ball around. There are 10 guys who are taking their first moves into rugby as adults – no juniors or schoolboys to prepare them. I admire them immensely – and I’ll be getting to referee them a lot, as I’m the pet ref. Last week’s rivals – College Rifles Presidents were kind of shocked to have a ref who actually knew the rules!

And how much travelling have I done since I last posted? Well with eight games and three meetings that I remember, I have clocked up a fairly impressive 302.7 km!

Only five of those were on the train.