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?
Ah yes, my ridiculous weekend. (24th of May if we need a date reference.) Having come down with a solid bout of laryngitis, I forwent refereeing schools rugby, mainly because I was down to do two games and I thought I would die. Also having no voice tends to hamper your refereeing efforts. Instead I went down to Mount Wellington to watch the Falcons play the Coneheads.
Now, the Coneheads being the home team, should have provided a referee. They promised one was on the way, cross their hearts and hope to die, so I would only have to do five minutes pretty please? And I croaked yes. (See: compulsive volunteer)
So wearing my jeans, borrowed trainers, and an inside out Falcons jersey 5 sizes too big – I went out to start the game.
Five minutes came and went, and I was still out there. Ten minutes. We were closing on 15 when I called time off and asked if they actually had anyone to referee.
The reply? “Um, no.”
Because I was, by then, coughing so hard I thought I would lose a lung, and struggling to breathe, I handed the whistle to Ray, the Falcons coach. Ray did well until midway through the second half, when he and one of the Coneheads got into a shouting match and Ray gave absolutely as good as he got. It was awkward.
It ended, however, in the Falcons knocking up their first ever win, 20-15. The boys were ecstatic. I was exhausted. They went out to celebrate, I got told three times I looked awful, and went home to bed.
Sleep is a fabulous thing. And after 12 hours of it, I scraped myself out of bed at an hour which should not exist on a Sunday and drove over the bridge to Devonport Naval Base. The schools junior rugby tournament was on, run by the NZ Barbarians association and what had promised to be a damp and miserable day turned into a stunner.
The kids were all about 9 or 10, barefoot, and mad keen. I managed not to tread on anyone, and implemented a law of my own creation which basically said “a player who high-tackles someone gets subbed off for the rest of the half”. It seemed to work.
Something happened though, which I have never seen before in a rugby game. I called a scrum, which was non-contested 5 player forward packs. The kids were slowly getting into position when, with no trigger I could work out, both locks from one team fell to the ground and started punching one another.
At first, I stood there gawping and going what the fuck? I think everyone who wasn’t in the scrap had the same reaction. Blowing my whistle had no effect, yelling “Oi, stop!” had no effect. Luckily they were of the size that I could reach down, grab their collars, and yank them apart without much difficulty. Even more luckily there were teachers and principals right there, so I was able to march the two boys off the field and hand them to someone with actual authority.
At half-time a couple of matches later a silver-haired woman introduced herself to me as the school’s principal and said that the two boys had something to say to me.
“Um, yeah, we’re sorry about that what happened in the game,” one said, though most of it was lost to mumbling.
“Sorry it won’t happen again,” said the other, staring resolutely at his feet.
It was the best, most awkward apology I’ve ever received. Truly, it was great. I reassured the principal that it was okay, told the boys that next time they should sort their problems without violence, and worked very very hard not to laugh while they could hear me.
I do wonder what the fight was actually about though. What caused it? Why were they punching one another? The answer may be lost to time, I fear. These are the questions which keep me awake at night.
Since I’m not going to count the distance to Mount Wellington (partly cos I wasn’t meant to referee, mostly because I got a lift with Jeremy) the weekend clocked up just the 42.8km round trip to Devonport.