Three stages of a ref’s career – by Pat McNally

Posted by SCRRS Website Committee on November 17th, 2009

By Pat McNally


I attended and passed my certification course, talked to an experienced referee and I’m ready to referee my first rugby match.

Except now that the match has started I totally forgot everything they told me.

I have no idea what to call or what my priorities should be. Is there anybody on the sidelines that knows what’s going on that I can feed off of? I know, I’ll be a player’s referee and let them do whatever the hell they want and if I act like I know what I’m doing, maybe they’ll buy it.

Number 2 was always up to no good when I played, I’ll just yell at him a lot and maybe the other players will buy into it. How can this be so difficult when that stiff from the B-side can pull it off?

What started out as an honest attempt to give something back to the sport has turned into the Seventh Circle of Dante’s Inferno.

I keep checking my watch but the damn thing won’t move fast enough. The game is finally over and I survived. No one has tried to assault me and somebody actually brought me a beer. So, when do I get to referee an international?


I always have my law book with me and I have an extra by my bed and in the bathroom, and it is liberally marked with page markers and post-it-notes.

I’ve studied and mirrored the positioning of Nigel Owens, the running lines of Craig Joubert and the whistle tone of Wayne Barnes.

I contact the IRB office in Dublin every week to present my ideas on how the game SHOULD be refereed, but for some reason they have yet to respond. My pre-match talk lasts approximately 20 minutes so I make sure I can cover the 30 items on my checklist.

I average over 40 penalties a match because each and every infraction is a personal affront and must be whistled (I know my law!). Not above stopping the match to sit the teams down to make sure they get the message.

Can’t understand why the teams continually challenge me, don’t they know who I am? The only reason I didn’t get the final was purely political, it’s a conspiracy.


I’ve worked hard to earn the teams’ respect and I trust the players will respond positively to my directions.

I’ll only call what is material, but I will follow up with players during dead ball time to make sure they realize I know what’s going on. I will be clear and direct in all my communications. I won’t let the players sway my calls but I’ll respect their opinions.

I pride myself on my fitness and my knowledge of laws but I never lord it over the players. I am always punctual to matches and make sure I approach both team coaches before the game and give them equal time.

I’ll listen to what they have to say and be honest in my answers to their queries. I attend the after match function and engage players and coaches without ever isolating myself. I may have a few drinks but I never lose control.

I am modest about my achievements and try to make the most out of whatever match I am assigned to because every match is a World Cup match to its players.

I love the game and I love the people, every single crazy one.

Post a comment via FaceBook

Post a comment on this website

Add your comment below. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

+ 1 = six

Referee Advice

Be courteous, consistent, confident, knowledgeable, humble, respectful and fair. This is in the spirit of the sport and elevates players expectations. — Phil Klevorick

Add your favorite referee advice to our list - email us