Club rugby in Ireland is a sport that grants very few prizes in the real world. But there is an intangible reward and that is the respect you get from the your teammates who take the field with you. Rugby can be a tough and dangerous sport but when you have the guts to walk onto a pitch, your teammates will respect the fact that you’ve take the field together and put your body on the line.
However, we must remember though the other people that take the pitch are just as crucial as the players.
They are of course the referees!
We ALL get frustrated with referees when they make wrong decisions but we often expect perfection from them but not ourselves. Look at it this way: How can we expect them to be at Nigel Owens’s level when we’re nowhere near Johnny Sexton’s?
Most of the lads who referee our games are exactly like the players, guys who turn up and tog out on a Saturday purely because they love the sport. Without them there is NO GAME. However they’re also human beings, so if they’re getting grief and abuse from players of one team, it won’t be a big surprise if that team sees themselves get penalised on marginal calls.
So my point is this:
DON’T TALK TO REFS ON THE PITCH!
The captain talks to the the ref and that is it!
And it’s not just about being nice and noble, there’s genuinely a competitive advantage to it. Refs at this level hate getting crap from mouthy teams and they’re truly impressed when teams have a bit of respect for them.
The one thing you can control on a rugby pitch in what comes out of your own gob. Make a firm commitment now to shut up and get on with things and you will soon see the benefits.
Finally, I’ve used a picture of Paul Cusack, our own ref who left us all too soon three years ago. Paul was a great lad and a fine ref but it’s fair to say he drove us all mad at times with some of his decisions.
But Paul was the exact same as a player, a human being who got some things right and some things wrong but no one could ever doubt his commitment and love of the game. He will always have a place in the heart of our club.
Treat every referee with respect, it’s the only way to go.
Jim O’Connor (c)
Photo: Sharon Flanagan