Refereeing: Appointments & disappointments
OPINION: Is there anybody in the whole wide world who has not had disappointments?
The answer is no, for nobody at all has ever walked on earth and not suffered disappointment. It is a part of the lot of man.
It is the lot of every sportsman to be disappointed. It doesn’t matter what the sport, it brings disappointment.
Just look at the Junior Wallabies after the final whistle in Rosario on Saturday to see what disappointment is like.
Disappointment has many causes – injury, illness, defeat especially when the defeat is unexpected, family commitments, work commitments, transport problems and so on.
One most acutely felt disappointment is not being picked. Being dropped is even worse than not being selected.
When one man does the selecting, there are suspicions, such as bias. When a committee does the selecting, it is probable that not one of the individual selectors agrees with what is the team they all eventually agreed on.
There is the lovely story of Eric Rush, who went to All Black trials and was not selected. Disappointed, he phoned his Dad to tell him the bad news. His Dad said: “Relax, son. It’s just one man’s opinion.”
Rush went to trials again the next year and this time he was selected. Gleefully, he phoned his Dad to tell him the good news. His Dad said: “Relax, son. It’s just one man’s opinion.”
Mr Rush snr believed in keeping a level head.
But however you try to rationalise non-selection, it is always disappointing. And the bigger the occasion, the more acute the disappointment.
This doubtlessly has happened with the announcement of the referees chosen to go to the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year.
Two teams of referees have been selected – an A Team that will referee and a B Team that will assist them.
And outside of that, there must be a third team of disappointed referees – men who have given their all to be fit enough and sharp enough, men who have travelled long journeys in the hope of getting this chance which happens once in four years.
The selecting of referees and assistant referees is done by a committee – and, by the way, the assistant referees are not specialist assistant referees but on-field referees who have been chosen for the B Team to man the sidelines.
Inevitably there will be hard-luck stories – the player chosen but withdraws because of a boil and is never chosen again; the player chosen for a touring team and gets injured and never plays on the tour; the player who loses out to a selection committee’s 3-2 vote and is never chosen.
It is an onlooker’s prerogative to disagree with the selected team. It happens all the time.
Here are the chosen teams:
Referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Nic Berry (Australia), Jérôme Garcès (France), Angus Gardner (Australia), Pascal Gaüzère (France), Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Nigel Owens (Wales), Luke Pearce (England), Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Romain Poite (France), Mathieu Raynal (France) and Paul Williams (New Zealand).
Assistant referees: Federico Anselmi (Argentina), Andrew Brace (Ireland), Matthew Carley (England, reserve referee), Karl Dickson (England), Shuhei Kubo (Japan), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand) and Alexandre Ruiz (France).
There are obvious first-choice referees – tried and tested men like Nigel Owens, Jaco Peyper, Jérôme Garcès and Wayne Barnes.
And then you ask yourself questions. You pick a list of men who are top class and must be disappointed – men who have never been guilty of the major gaffes of at least three on the referees’ list.
You ask yourself if Gardner, Gaüzère, Pearce and Berry amongst referees and all of those on the list of assistants are really better than Glen Jackson and Mike Fraser of New Zealand, Marius van der Westhuizen and Rasta Rasivhenge of South Africa, JP Doyle of England and Mike Adamson of Scotland. Are Brace, Dickson and Ruiz really better than any one of those six?
Look at the big tournaments that are testing grounds for referees – Super Rugby, PRO14 and the European Cup and compare those chosen with those who missed out. There have been occasions when you could do it on the same day – Berry in Durban and then Van der Westhuizen in Johannesburg in the same country on the same Saturday afternoon.
But like players, referees have no recourse – no trade union to argue their case.
So what do they do?
They accept it, as they do all other disappointments, like sickness, injury, death, being jilted, pulling a hamstring at the wrong time. Not accepting the reality of such situations is a step towards madness! Blaming and looking for excuses also does not help.
Stumbling blocks can become stepping stones.
But it helps enormously if you love rugby and in particular refereeing rugby. You can then go on doing what you love doing in the game you love and thank your blessings for how much happiness is yours.
For every referee disappointed that he is not going to the World Cup, there are thousands who would love to have done what those fine men do.
Life’s too short for bitterness.
By Paul Dobson