Tourney Time!

It’s that time again – school holidays, and under-13 zone tournament time. In Auckland there are two tournaments – Walter Dickson, which is weight-restricted and divides the city up into 8 zones, and Bill McLaren, which is not weight-restricted, divides the city into four, and features 12-year-olds who are bigger than I am. These two tournaments play simultaneously over five days, with 4-6 games on every day.

The kids in these tournaments are usually pretty okay. The adults involved as coaches and spectators… Not so much. Last year I copped plenty, and this year, while I’ve been mostly given a reprieve, there have still been some displays of terrible sideline behaviour.

And it affects the kids. In my game today I had one unbelievably irritating halfback, who was parroting all of the ‘advice’ I was receiving from a loud bloke on the sideline, only at a much higher pitch, much closer to my ear. Eventually I penalised him and told his captain if I heard him yell again (I resisted saying ‘squeal’ but that’s what it was) each time would be another penalty. Halfback eventually got the message.

And yesterday featured an absolute gem, from one coach to his team at half-time. He had them gathered round, all 22 boys, and was yelling* at them

“Do you want to shake hands with them knowing they dominated you? That they made you look like a bunch of girls?”

Gobsmacked, I tell you. Passed it on to the organisers today – Not impressed all round.

The games are good, fast, and mentally exhausting. The kids are SO fired up, and often their skills don’t match their enthusiasm or aggression – so it takes a lot of management to stop them from getting frustrated. I’m going okay so far, as well as working a full shift in the evenings, so lets hope the wheels don’t fall off immediately!

*Why are people who are inclined to yell a lot allowed to coach kids sports teams? Yelling is not an appropriate coaching technique at that age – these are kids, they should be learning positive behaviour, as well as rugby.




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.