100 for Dan the Man

With game #100 this weekend, a good place to start might be your first Premier game. What can you remember of it?

It was all the way back in 2014 on the last round of the Swindale Shield at Helston Park between Johnsonville and Petone. I was also likely enough to have a few outside of the province in our great interchange programme that WRRA do. I had 2013 off where I went on an OE and got back into it for enjoyment, and to get this appointment was a real excitement and felt rewarded for the hard work over the years. 

I was a little star struck with a few players that were in the line ups. Some that come to mind include Riki Flutey who I used to watch playing for the Wellington Lions and had just come back from playing for England and the British & Irish Lions. Another one was Donal McNamara who I had often watched playing for Ories when I was an assistant referee and one of the strongest scrummagers around Wellington. And one more was the Johnsonville captain Campbell Tait who I played U19 rep softball with growing up, so it was good to have a familiar face to deal with.   

I don’t remember much details of the game, but it was a little one way traffic and Petone ended up taking it out 36-nil. 

What got you into refereeing in the first place?

All the way back in 2004, in my last year at College I was playing U65kg rugby and the sports coordinator got an email about the You Makes The Call course, so I went along to a meeting about it and just really enjoyed it. Walshy (David Walsh) was next to me and made it really fun, and I’ve stayed on ever since.

One of the mentors in the first-year group was Garratt Williamson, and while  I wasn’t actually ever intending to ref but they worked me and I felt well supported and thought “why not give it a go”.  That year I suffered a major concussion playing and decided to just stay with the whistle and it was a good way to stay fit for the softball season.

Dan in the wet
Dan in action on that wet day of 2021!

You’ve refereed a number of finals. including a pair of Hardham Cup ones and a couple of College Premiership ones. What is your favourite memory of those?

As a player and a ref these are the games you want to be part of and they are all memorable for different reasons. The first college final in 2014 was up there; with Scots winning for the first time and the players that were on show that day. That was decided with a penalty on full on full time that I had to give. Another was the Hardham Cup in 2016 between HOBM and Petone under lights on a cold and wet Hutt Rec.

What other memorable matches and moments standout?

One that always comes to mind is the Jubilee Cup semi-final in 2015 between MSP and Tawa. It was my first full year in Premier and was a nice reward for a solid season. It was a  high intensity match, had multiple lead changes, and had to yellow card Isaac O’Connor in the first 2 minutes! I was also lucky enough to have Ben O’Keeffe and Vincent Ringrose as my AR’s.

Who have been your biggest influences as a referee?

A tough question. There are a lot of people who have helped me along the way and always like to take in different aspects from different people. An early one would have to be Garratt Williamson, and seeing him move through the ranks and up to the national squads and becoming a professional. Walshy was another, always open to talk and help with law knowledge and the passion he has for rugby.

As I’ve moved onto higher levels, I would love to say Ray Stott. He’s always been willing to go out of his way and gave honest and frank feedback, and pushed me to bring the best out of myself. Plus he was there for my first Premier game. Another recent one is my coach Jared Clarke who is always a great sounding board, always willing to listen, and challenging me by putting things in perspective.

Lastly, I would have to mention my wife, Benita. She allows me the time to dedicate to refereeing starting with preseason, the Saturday’s away, and my reviews. She’s been with me through the good, bad, and ugly with my 100 games. She is supportive and on the side-lines when she can be and has my back in every way and not scared, and even open to challenging players herself over the years too! Unfortunately she will not be there on Saturday due to the death of her nana and has returned to Oz. 

Dans #1 supporter his wife Benita and youngest Riley

What do you like to do away from the game?
I have a young family, with a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old so spending time with them and working on our house. I work as a teacher aide and manage an after school care and holiday program out of St Mark’s School by the Basin.

It seems odd given how long you’ve been around that you’ve never had Poneke up against Ories, but had each club many times. What are you expecting on Saturday?

Yea was thinking the same thing. I was also thinking back on my whole refereeing career and think I’ve only had these two clubs in a game once before and that was in my 3rd year in a colts game. Pretty much everyone on the field was a Rongotai Old Boy – including me – and everyone knew each other.

To the game on Saturday,it’s a big local derby and should be a big crowd. Looking at past results, always tight and usually a few points between them. Poneke have been playing very positive rugby and Ories always like to express themselves so hoping for an open flowing game.   

Lastly, what advice do you have for anyone looking to get into refereeing?

There are a few really. It is a great way to meet like minded people and the more you put in the more things you could get out of it, like travel around NZ and even around the world. Plus, it really is the best seat in the house to watch a game