When an appeal went out recently for referees to help with the Canterbury Rugby League 14s and 15s Nines tournament, a trio of Riccarton Knights heeded the call.

Knights stalwart and club president Shane Tamatea, veteran forward Ross Turi, who transferred from Northern Bulldogs in the off-season, and Jamieson Ilalio picked up the whistle for last weekend’s fast-paced festival of junior footy at Ngā Puna Wai.

“I got a message from Jordann [Chand] at CRL asking me if I was keen to ref and if any of the senior boys at Riccarton wanted to jump on and help out,” Tamatea says.

“I’ve done a little bit myself over the last two or three years … in the under-10s, 13s and 14s.

“Luckily I’ve been doing some training with the prems boys so my fitness was all good. In terms of the speed of the game and players, it was fun – just a good vibe.”

Match officials are an essential part of any sport – but finding enough people to put their hand up is a constant challenge for rugby league, as it is for all grassroots codes.

It’s hoped the shining example set for the local community by the Knights develops into a trend of current or former players bolstering the refereeing ranks.

“I put the challenge out on social media to all the senior and premier players to give reffing a go – we’re all pretty good from the sideline or on the field, so why not?” adds Tamatea, who is on standby to add to his 300-plus appearances for the Knights in 2024 if required.

“[We can] use our expertise and knowledge of the game to transfer over to refereeing, even if it is on a weeknight while still playing footy.

“I know a lot of guys that hang up the boots stay involved with their clubs through coaching but it would be cool to seem some of them transition to refereeing.”

For Turi, his officiating introduction in the Nines tournament is set to be the starting point to achieve a long-held ambition.

The former Canterbury Bulls mainstay has been eager to get into refereeing, but his other rugby league commitments have got in the way until now.

“It’s been something I’ve been looking at for probably the last four years, but every year I end up pulling on the boots and playing again,” Turi explains.

“I’ve also been coaching my son’s team for the last three years, but this year I’m not doing any coaching so I want to do some reffing when I’m not playing.”

Dipping his toes into the refereeing caper went smoothly for Turi, despite some debut jitters.

Meanwhile, he outlined a plan for working his way up the officiating ladder.

“I enjoyed it – I was a wee bit nervous, all the responsibility was on me. Like I told a few people, I’m a better ref when I’m not the ref,” Turi jokes.

“But the kids made it really easy, too, the 14- and 15-year-old boys, they were really good. No one questioned anything, I liked it.

“The goal for me this year is to … ref the juniors during the week, 18s, 16s and 14s, and then transition into Saturday and Sunday games next year.

“Which will probably mean giving up playing footy, which I’m OK with…as long as we win the comp this year!”

Turi implores any of his peers to join him on the player-to-referee journey – not only for personal enjoyment, but also for the future of the game.

“If I can do it, I feel anyone with a passion for rugby league can do it. When I first started looking at it my goal was just about refereeing at senior level, but since my boy’s a bit older I’ve come to realise that the juniors is where we probably need more refs.

“Because if kids don’t get the right refs, they’re likely to drop off before they get to seniors.”

The rugged prop admits that his brief foray into refereeing has already made him reflect on his on-field manner as player.

And he’s made a bold declaration for the season ahead.

“To be honest, I’ve had good relationships with refs – I’d have a laugh with them and shake their hand – but as soon as I felt I got a call that was 50-50, I was very quick to voice my opinion on how it was the wrong call,” Turi concedes.

“Since doing the reffing in the weekend, I’ve changed my whole attitude – it’s a lot tougher than I thought. And going forward they won’t hear a word from me.

“I’ve been quick to judge them, but they won’t be getting that from me this season.”

Anyone interested in refereeing or looking for more information, please contact Jordan Chand at Canterbury Rugby League:

Share this

Posted in