Part I. “You’re Not a Ref”
If you passed the level one referee test a few years ago but haven’t reffed a game since, don’t go to the society meetings, and don’t follow the monthly rulings from the IRB you’re not a ref. So please don’t come up to the ref after the game and start your criticism with “Now, I’m a ref too…” You’re not a ref, you’re someone who passed a test once. You’re not a ref the same way Steve Young’s not a lawyer. You’re not a ref the same way someone who hasn’t studied the tax code in ten years isn’t a CPA. You’re not a ref the same way I’m not a paramedic. Sure, I took the class and passed the test but I never actually worked as a paramedic and you probably don’t want me to be the one there with your life on the line.
In a very similar way we refs don’t want you trying to help us out with your “observations.” The interpretations of law, emphasis of law, and even the law itself is constantly changing. If you’re not following it the way refs are you’re hopelessly behind and should probably just keep your comments to yourself. Which brings me to.....
Part II. “I am Where I am”
Believe it or not refs see the game differently than you do. We have to. There’s more for us to see. During a recent match I had this exchange with a player after calling a ball not straight in the line out:
“What? How can you call that?”
“It wasn’t straight”
“He played it with his outside hand which means it was either not straight or he closed the space. The way I saw it gives you another shot, the other option is to give them a free kick.”
“Then can you at least get in a better position to see it next time?”
What you need to know as a player is that our positioning is not random. Where we stand is proscribed by best practices handed down by the IRB, USA Rugby and our referee coaches and evaluators. As a new ref I wanted to stand right next to the hooker so I could see the throw. That was back when I thought the throw was the most important part of the line out. The throw is important, but there’s so much more to managing a line out than the throw. Now you will see many refs stand closer to the front of the lineout and off on the side of the team throwing in. There are several reasons for this:
- You can see more from this position including the thrower, the front of the line, the back of the line, and the backlines.
- You are better able to manage the next phase (ruck, maul, pass) and are closer to the open field if the ball is spun out.
As far as being able to call the straight ball we have other things we look for like the aforementioned playing the ball with the outside hand. So remember, we take our positions at set pieces with specific reasoning.