Glover humbled by CRL life membership
Life membership to any organisation is recognition of a person’s long service and monumental contribution.
But despite a premier-grade refereeing career spanning 27 seasons – and giving up countless hours on the field and behind the scenes for the sport he loves – Mike Glover was floored by his recent life membership honour from Canterbury Rugby League.
“To be honest, I was completely blown away,” Glover said.
“Personally it’s just great to get rewarded for something that you never expected to happen, even though you’re so passionate about the game you’d do it anyhow.
“It means a huge amount. When I look back at the current life members and the deceased life members, it’s a very small group of people from over 100 years of football, so it’s a huge honour to be part of that select group.”
Glover, 54, has had almost a half-century of involvement with rugby league in the region. Born in Christchurch, he began playing for Hornby as a five-year-old and progressed through the junior ranks with the club.
Glover decided to start refereeing at junior level during his late-teens, and when head injuries curtailed his playing career, he joined the open-grade pool of whistle-blowers.
“I was approached by a guy who was a life member of the Referees’ Association, Brian Evans, who asked me if I’d consider refereeing schoolboys.
“I really enjoyed it. And once you’ve got the bug, you’re always going to carry on. Hence when I stopped playing, I decided to have a crack at the senior ranks.”
Controlling premier grade matches from the late-1980s, Glover feels fortunate to have spent the early years of his senior refereeing career during a halcyon period of Canterbury club and representative rugby league.
“I was lucky enough when I first joined to be refereeing Kiwi players in club football,” Glover recalled.
“To be part of that era – and in my view rugby league was so much stronger and better in that era – I think the level of football certainly helped the referees.
“I was a touch judge in the (1993) game where Canterbury, coached by Frank Endacott, managed to beat Auckland with 10,000 people at the (Addington) Showgrounds. Being part of that game – and Gary Baxter was the other touch judge – was a pretty special moment.
“When I was refereeing premier football on Wednesday night, Saturday night and Sunday night, the support from the public was huge. You’d see both stands half full of people on a Wednesday night.
“We were lucky enough to (referee in) an era where there was better support from the spectators and a better quality of football.”
Glover semi-retired from refereeing in 2013, but pitched in for a few games when numbers were short in 2014 and handled one game last year to extend his tenure to 27 seasons.
He also toiled hard for rugby league off the paddock, coaching Hornby junior teams from the 9s to 13s and Canterbury age-group teams in the same grades during the late-1990s and early-2000s, while helping select age-group rep teams.
The affable Glover spent two lengthy stints as Canterbury Rugby League Referees’ Association chairman between the mid-1990s and 2013, and was a committee member in the interim.
The position had its inherent trials and tribulations, but – typical of his unassuming and industrious nature – Glover recognised the job needed to be done and was more than happy to roll up his sleeves.
“It was one of those roles where you were battling a whole lot of things, and (in my second stint) I was battling with the issues around referee safety, lack of numbers and certainly a tenuous relationship between the referees and Canterbury Rugby League,” he said of his time in the administrative post.
Glover explained the challenges of being a referee in Canterbury, and the increasingly difficult time referees have had at grassroots level – which have dramatically thinned out officiating numbers and made it tough to attract new blood.
“It’s probably harder to progress through the ranks (in Canterbury),” he explained.
“If a referee wants to progress through the ranks now and be very successful … Canterbury is not the place to be. You need to be in Auckland to get recognised, there’s no doubt about that.
“You used to feel safe refereeing football on outside grounds. We’ve had these issues in the last six or seven years where there’s had to be safety plans put in place for referees.
“It’s unfortunate that we’ve probably lost a number of referees because they’ve probably felt that it’s not safe to referee at outside grounds. In the early days we had touch judges for premier football and we don’t have those numbers anymore.
“I think it’s a reflection of the change in society and people continuing to drink alcohol all day at football grounds.”
But it’s not all doom and gloom, according to Glover, who believes the work being undertaken in Canterbury, and the nationwide campaigns railing against abuse of referees in all sports, can pave the way for a resurgence.
“(The campaigns are) absolutely a step in the right direction, and if I look at the numbers and what’s happening in Canterbury Rugby League this year, there’s some new (faces) and Steve Toms and his team have done exceptionally well to find some new talent.”
But Glover emphasised the need for more ex-players to follow his lead and pick up the whistle.
“The key to getting more people involved is once they stop playing, they need to start putting more back into the game, whether that be as a coach, a manager or a referee,” he said.
“I think some of the things we’re seeing like young referees coming from schoolboys and moving through, and people that have decided they (no longer) have a career playing, that’s a real positive.
“Making referees feel safe is hugely critical for us growing.”
For Glover, there’s no off-season in his refereeing duties. The veteran official is a senior speedway referee during summer, and coaches and mentors other speedway referees in his spare time. He also refused to confirm his rugby league whistle had been hung up for good.
“I’m going to carry on doing selecting and grading – I started doing that last year. We hadn’t had anyone doing assessing or grading of the refs for some time, so I decided to juggle that with refereeing a few games.
“Certainly the whistle will come out if the association needs me to help out in any shape, but I really want to try and help the younger new referees come through by giving them support, turning up to their games and giving them feedback on their abilities and where they can improve.”
But for now, Glover is basking in his much-deserved award – in characteristically modest style.
“I can’t thank Canterbury Rugby League enough for bestowing this life membership upon me. I’m sure there’s many other people out there who are just as deserving, so to single me out is certainly very humbling for me.
“You don’t do these things to earn the accolades, that’s for sure. You do it because you’re passionate about the game.
“I also want to mention that without the support of my wife, Wendy, achieving what I did would not have been possible. Spending many hours training and refereeing while having a very young family required her tireless support.”
WILL EVANS – CANTERBURY RUGBY LEAGUE