RATHBONE: Refs, rattling bones and the riddle of the Rugby Man

Clyde Rathbone Columnist

By Clyde Rathbone, Clyde Rathbone is a Roar Expert

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    A few weeks ago a pleasant stroll through the farmers’ market was interrupted by a Rugby Man.

    Really it was my own fault, I made fleeting eye contact with a potbellied man in a rugby jersey – at a farmers’ market.

    It was a rookie mistake and my newfound acquaintance wasted no time punishing me for it. He launched into a detailed analysis of all the recent Super Rugby matches and then segued into the “horrifying” effect referees were having on the game.

    Rugby Man really didn’t like referees.

    As his gesticulations reached a climax I wondered if perhaps he was having a seizure, truth be told part of me hoped he was, at least then I could have departed the bizarre monologue from which there appeared to be no escape.

    Eventually Rugby Man ceased quaking long enough to ask me what I thought of all this. Tempted as I was to tell him the truth – which was that I’d not thought about any of his claims until he mentioned them – I also knew I was dealing with a professional. I was dealing with a man who wouldn’t take “who cares” for an answer. He cared, a lot, and deep in his bones he must have thought I did too.

    So I mumbled something about being too busy to catch all the games and that being a referee is a thankless job at the best of times. Rugby man could not accept this, it was though I had uploaded a faulty script to the central processing unit of his brain.

    “But the refs are killing the game maayte” he said. At this point I longed for a charitable solution, some way I could make a small token donation to a cause I didn’t care for and make a hurried exit. A coin slot atop the head of Rugby Man would have been perfect.

    “Um, I guess it doesn’t help that the rules keep changing and the refs have to adapt quickly” I said, now praying for a quick death. “MAAAAYTE, I’m telling ya the refs are killing the game, everything’s a bloody penally these days, it shits me to tears Maaayte!”

    How had this happened, and why? Normally I can spot Rugby Men a mile off and I’ve spent a career arming myself with escape tactics, but in retirement I’d gone soft. I was off my game and I’d been caught out by a true believer. I was going to have to take this like a man, which is to say I was going to have to lie through my teeth and give him what he wanted.

    “You know I think you’re right, most refs are pretty pedantic”.

    Rugby Man looked at me as though our souls had become one, as if the brotherhood of Rugby Men would remain forever unblemished by reason. He slowly extended his arm while retaining eye contact and nearly rattled my bones to dust with a vigorous handshake.

    “I always knew you were fair dinkum” he said, before vanishing as quickly as he had appeared.

    Clyde Rathbone
    Clyde Rathbone

    Former Wallaby & Brumby Clyde Rathbone retired from rugby in 2014. Clyde is a writer, speaker and technology startup founder. A Roar columnist since 2012, you can follow Clyde via his Twitter page.

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    The Crowd Says (107)

    • April 10th 2015 @ 12:53am
      Pinetree said | April 10th 2015 @ 12:53am | ! Report

      Thanks Clyde for the article,

      I think we quite often take a bias view to refs in what must be a tough job. I think we lay the blame on refs in haste, when quite often it is the failure of your own team to adapt. Even if a ref does have a bad game, and your team gets the majority of the bad calls, the ref is only human, and your team must deal with it, even if it means a change in game plan midway during the match.

      I remember blaming the ref Barnes, for the AB loss to France in the 2007 world cup quarter final. He didn’t have a great game, but I laid the blame 100% on the ref. It took me about 3 years to realise that the ABs actually failed to adapt to the ref, which is really why we lost the game.

      I believe that the ABs learned to counter refs by being able the change tactics after that loss, which has helped them to be the dominant team that they are today.

      I enjoy the game a lot more these days without a focus on what the refs do, but the decisions the players make on the field. Refs are human, the rules are complex, and the players can’t exactly play a game without them.

      I guess I am guilty of the odd nag on refs, but mostly they don’t enter my mind at all.

      • April 10th 2015 @ 10:14am
        jameswm said | April 10th 2015 @ 10:14am | ! Report

        You’ve also got to remember that a lot of players (except of course the spotless McCaw) push the rules to the absolute limit, and that the ref only has two eyes.

    • April 10th 2015 @ 1:16am
      Magic Sponge said | April 10th 2015 @ 1:16am | ! Report

      The refs and yellow cards will destroy a number of games at the world cup. Refs should be paid more than the players as they will have more of an impact on the results

      • April 10th 2015 @ 10:49am
        Markus said | April 10th 2015 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        “Refs should be paid more than the players as they will have more of an impact on the results”
        That seemed to be the same reasoning floated every time an ‘independent’ review determined that politicians should be paid more.
        If competence is the problem among the current crop of referees (this is not necessarily my viewpoint), how would paying more money to the same supposedly incompetent referees suddenly make them more competent?

      • Roar Guru

        April 10th 2015 @ 7:42pm
        Cadfael said | April 10th 2015 @ 7:42pm | ! Report

        I have to disagree. yes, some refs can be quite pedantic but they only blow penalties and use their cards when a team offends. As Pinetree pointed out, to get onsidwe with the refs is just to adjust to their game. This is the case regardless of whether its international, Super Rugby or country rugby.

    • Roar Guru

      April 10th 2015 @ 1:57am
      AdamS said | April 10th 2015 @ 1:57am | ! Report

      Should have pointed over his shoulder and said, “Hey, there’s Stuart Berry!”

      Then done a runner….

      • Roar Rookie

        April 10th 2015 @ 4:26am
        KIBUI BUTT said | April 10th 2015 @ 4:26am | ! Report

        had me in sticthes……

      • April 10th 2015 @ 8:56am
        Quading in... said | April 10th 2015 @ 8:56am | ! Report

        Hahaha great call Adam!

      • April 10th 2015 @ 10:50am
        Mike said | April 10th 2015 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        Very good…

    • Roar Guru

      April 10th 2015 @ 2:05am
      Kia Kaha said | April 10th 2015 @ 2:05am | ! Report

      Thanks for the article, Clyde. You were lucky to get rid of Phil Kearns so easily. If you’d mentioned Richie McCaw’s name, you’d still be talking to him. 😉

      Rugby Man is right, though, in the sense that there are too many opportunities – hence laws – for a ref to disrupt a game. It’s becoming a tactic to slow down plays by visiting teams and put them up on the big screen to alert the ref but if we were to do so with any ruck, it wouldn’t make good viewing for either side.

      We want complexity in rugby like scrums and the breakdown but we also want simplicity in officiating. I guess we have to be careful what we wish for and Rugby Man needs to recognise what we get as a result.

      • Roar Guru

        April 10th 2015 @ 10:48am
        Lano said | April 10th 2015 @ 10:48am | ! Report

        “Phil Kearns” gold!

    • April 10th 2015 @ 4:34am
      wiya said | April 10th 2015 @ 4:34am | ! Report

      Thanks clyde good article let’s hope the players will be dissipline when the WC kick off cause red and yellow cards will cos their teams their matches

      • Roar Guru

        April 10th 2015 @ 12:24pm
        pformagg said | April 10th 2015 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

        unless its the Allblacks, as they improve with each yellow given.

    • April 10th 2015 @ 4:37am
      wiya said | April 10th 2015 @ 4:37am | ! Report

      Thanks clyde good article dissipline will be the main thing

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