Referee ready for Super Rugby debut

Getty Images     03 Mar 2016     Getty Images

As a senior club rugby player in Taranaki, Williams hadn’t given much thought to refereeing until he applied to be a volunteer for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

“My interviewer knew I played some club rugby and asked if I had ever thought about picking up the whistle. Long story short, the next week I was refereeing a kids game for the first time,” Williams said.

From there, Williams had a big decision to make in 2012.

“I had to decide whether I keep plugging away at senior rugby and go backwards through the grades as I got older, or do I gamble and have a go at this referring career. At that stage I knew my All Blacks dream was over so I had nothing to lose. I picked up the whistle, threw away the rugby boots and got into it.”

Although nervous about the transition from player to referee, Williams said that being a former halfback was an advantage.

“I find that my running lines as a referee mirror what my running lines were as a halfback. There will be often times in a game where I’m running along and the halfback is running next to me. In terms of a transition – that made it easier.”

Ahead of his first Super Rugby appointment this Friday when the Crusaders host the Blues, Williams says he is just trying to keep a lid on the excitement.

“There is the fear that you get so worked up that you start refereeing the game in your head before you cross the chalk.

“I’m lucky that I’ve got my wife and parents coming down to the game in Christchurch as well. They are a part of my support network and a big part of how I have got to this stage. It’s also a chance for me to say thanks to them.”

In his short refereeing career, Williams says that he has managed to tick off a number of milestones each year and hopes that will continue.

“I wouldn’t have thrown away my rugby boots so early if I didn’t want to go all the way with this. The pinnacle would be to be involved in a Rugby World Cup.”

As for any young players out there thinking of taking up the whistle, Williams has a simple message.

“Hundred percent give it a go. The opportunities that you get and the doors that open through refereeing are just endless. We’ve got referees that are starting out at 16 or 17 and then others that are picking up the whistle for the first time at age 40. So age is no barrier. It is a rewarding thing to do.”