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Not enough Group 2 referees

Low numbers in the refereeing ranks is threatening the 2010 Group 2 season.
Low numbers in the refereeing ranks is threatening the 2010 Group 2 season.

REFEREES Appointment Board member Robert Bond has urged Group 2 to direct clubs on which days games are to be played or risk matches being cancelled due to a lack of qualified officials.

Last Saturday’s first round of official trials ran into trouble with last minute drop-outs leaving just two appointed referees to control three matches at Macksville.

With no touch judges available, chairman of selectors (and ticketed referee) Maurie Lonergan stepped into the breach and the trials were able to go ahead.

Fixtures at the three other grounds were also understaffed.

“Lucky it was a trial at Macksville because if it was a competition fixture, duty of care could have meant cancellation and transfer to another day,” Bond said.

“There were enough problems last season with five matches every week but with the bye this year, we don’t have enough referees for four matches if they’re all played on the same day.

“Maybe the Group will have to direct them when to play rather than leave them to make up their own mind and as it stands at the moment, they have to be run over at least two days or we’ll continue to have shortages.”

A new system of official allocations is feasible with the revised draw designed by Coffs Coast Advocate journalist Brad Greenshields ending fixture clashes between near neighbours, while creating many ‘home and away’ promotional opportunities for the clubs.

Payments to referees have also been increased but Bond believes problems will still continue unless the system of creating referees is simplified.

“When blokes from my era got their ticket, you all started out together on the one level at the bottom of the pile,” he said.

“Then you went into under-18s and once you got more experience, gradually you worked up the ladder to your best level.

“Good referees went to the top and the rest filled in with lower grades and as touch judges and there was a natural flow over the years.

“But these days there are so many rules and regulations that it sometimes holds good young referees back and I reckon it’s one of the reasons why we’re so short.”

Backing up this theory was a scheme which didn’t quite get off the ground in 2009.

Referees’ official Bill Gibbons tried to alleviate the problem of insufficient numbers in the lead-up to the semi-finals when he pulled together a group of participants willing to undergo a crash course in touch judging, to relieve the press on ‘centre’ appointees.

This week, the CRL Referee’s Association through officials Kevin Riolo and Nick Best decided to write to all players over 17 years registered in the 2009 season who did not re-register for 2010, inviting them to take part in information sessions with the view to taking up the whistle.

“This is an interesting and positive step but I really can’t help commenting that this (Group 2) Association did basically this, last year,” Gibbons said in a release to members yesterday.

“I addressed clubs and the Group 2 general committee on three occasions, pointing out most of the facts listed in Kevin Riolo’s email and as a result, had a course to be run after June 30 with over 30 participants, four of them ex-reserve graders.”

After a CRL ruling that the courses couldn’t be run after June 30, Gibbons began running an ultimately unsuccessful campaign trying to force a reversal of that decision.

“Will this happen again and does it matter when a course is run if you have participants?” he asked.

Some of the pressure will be released this weekend with Woolgoolga hosting their trial against Coffs Harbour on Sunday, with Bellingen already deciding to play Sawtell on Saturday.

Other trials are set down for Port Macquarie and Nambucca Heads but no dates have yet been advised.