THE BIG news in February, at least on nzrugbynet.com, is that three new professional referees - Lyndon Bray (Wellington), Bryce Lawrence (Bay of Plenty) and Gary Wise (Hawkes Bay) - have been appointed by the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU).
The story raises a couple of issues, and you may not be at all surprised that I intend to tell you all about them !-)
The first is: Why do we need three more professional referees? We already have four (Paddy, Paul, Steve and Kelvin). These are the top refs in New Zealand, they are essentially our "international referees".
But let's just back up a bit, what is an "international referee"? This is a person who is (considered) capable of whistling a game between two top international teams. We are talking World Cup (including qualifying matches), Super 12, Tri Nations, 6 Nations, IRB Sevens and any other "big boys/ grand girls" international.
As you will know the "considered" part is all important, especially when you see that little ol' NZ can form a committee and say, "These ones will do - watch out world!" Of course being the amazing rugby nation that we are, we can be left to do this for ourselves and the outcome will obviously be somewhat better than some of those annoying referees that come from other countries (damn! how do I get my tongue out of my cheek ;)
(Hem... I raised a second question amongst the first question, I really should stop doing that!)
Why appoint them? Have you noticed how much international rugby there is going on? We obviously need a few more!
Secondly... ok, third: What do you have to do to get the job? Well, from the example of the famous-3 new NZders, you have to have been a referee for around 10 years, you have to have refereed more than 20 games at the top of your national competition. That means either NPC or Super 12 for NZ.
The other important factor is appearance at international age group tournaments (i.e. Under 19 Junior World Champs). The story doesn't actually mention that you had to referee well, but I'm picking that this was taken into account.
Finally forth: There is also the committee factor. If you have heard the statement "I bet that was designed by a committee!" you will know that it isn't a very complementary comment! So who is this committee? or to give them their correct title "referee appointments board"?
There is Bob Francis the NZRU Referee Selection Panel Convenor. Haven't heard of him before? Neither have I, but his NZRU job title suggests that he is "right up there" when it comes to anything to do with referees.
It is the others that are the interesting ones: Laurie Mains (Highlanders Coach), Reuben Thorne (players' representative) and Gary Dawson (Waikato RFU Chief Executive Officer).
You could be charitable and say that these guys are professional sports people, well respected in their respective positions and truely representative of the "stake holders", at least the New Zealand ones.
The less charitable view is that they are being asked to justify their salaries in the off season - at a time they would probably rather be at the beach getting in some light conditioning training - and they would therefore get the job done in a record time, so that they can get the hell out of Wellington!
So, as I said: Lyndon Bray (Wellington), Bryce Lawrence (Bay of Plenty) Gary Wise (Hawkes Bay) - These ones will do - watch out world!