I've Lost My Virginity! by John Banks

Having played the beautiful game for many years, what could be easier than taking on the role of the ‘man in the middle!’ Well, where shall I start….. Having completed the foundation referee course in September last year I awaited my first game with great anticipation. The first thing to strike me was the shortage of service games; when I was a lad we used to play every Saturday AND Wednesday, whereas nowadays you are lucky if there is a game once a month. I must have been lucky though because for my very first game I was appointed a friendly between HMS Cornwall and HMS Montrose at Plymouth. Before arriving I had a 90-minute drive and during this time I mulled over all (probably only a small percentage) of the possibilities that I thought I may have to face during the game. I was also fortunate enough to have an assessor appointed to observe my performance and provide guidance and encouragement pre, during and post match. With my warm up over it suddenly dawned on me that I now had to talk to the teams and tell them what I expected from them! But, what did I want? Seen as it was my first game I quickly thought of all the things that manage to wind me up when I watch rugby on the TV, hands in rucks, tackler not rolling away and falling over the ball. First, check boots, lo and behold there’s a player pleading ignorance because he did not realise he had a stud missing from the front of his boots. Now, with that out of the way, the briefing; I used my TV pick up points as the premise for my brief and it all seemed to go down well with people nodding their heads and, surprisingly, agreeing with what I said. So, off we went, my first game; I remembered what Paul Burton had told me with reference to whistle tone, made a quick mental note to get down the gym and improve the fitness level and told myself to stop picking up the TV referees and watch where they stood! The game went well and I even received three cheers from the teams on completion, something which has not happened since I hasten to add. Six months down the line I still get butterflies before starting a game but it is getting less as each game passes. I am my own worst enemy though as post game I review all my decisions and analyse them for any errors whilst my 12 year old son, who accompanies me most Saturdays, does not hold back if he thinks I have made an error! I now actively look forward to my next game and would advise any players, who may be considering hanging up their boots, to have a go, you have nothing to loose, and it does keep you within the rugby fraternity for hopefully quite a few more years… which reminds me to ask ‘...is it this year or next I get to ref the Army Vs RAF game?’ John is on the left with Ian Seaton centre and Andy Watts to the right in the picture.