Referee Annual Awards – McClement to Follow in Harland’s Footsteps?

The annual Royal Navy Rugby Union Referees’ Training Day afforded chairman Andy Coles the perfect opportunity to present the Society’s two annual referee awards – the Newcomer of the Year Award and the Admiral Royds Trophy.

Dave Prentice was the deserved recipient of the Newcomer of the Year Award.  Since his qualification course in the summer of 2012, with Hampshire Rugby Union Referee Society, Dave has been an active member in the Portsmouth port area and has risen steadily through the ranks.  Already a veteran of Twickenham he only needs look at the previous winners to seek guidance as to his future aspirations.  Does he aim for the administrative route and follow 2005 winner Andy Coles as Chairman or perhaps seek a couple of weeks refereeing a FIRA competition in Portugal as Duncan McClement, the 2007 winner, will be doing next month.  Clearly participation before administration has to be the goal.

As already mentioned Dave finished last season with a run out at Twickenham as part of the Army Navy day’s full programme of rugby.  The Emerging Schools event has over time featured most of the senior Service referees and also, a few years back, a sixteen year old Wayne Barnes.  Prior to his officiating at HQ Dave was selected as the reserve official for the International Babcock Challenge between the Royal Navy and their French counterparts, the Marine Nationale.  The intensity of this match when viewed from such close quarters, as well as trying to manage the bench of replacements, certainly whetted his appetite for future big occasions.  Fortunately Navy Rugby’s community programme is well suited for the ongoing development of referees like Dave Prentice and followers of Navy Rugby will no doubt see him progress through the well worn pathway of Area Finals, Inter Command league matches before hopefully either a single Service unit final or an Inter Command final.

The recipient of the Admiral Royds Trophy was never in any doubt.  After a remarkable season and consistent performances Duncan McClement has put the ruptured Achilles tendon he suffered fully behind him and is challenging the Army’s Max Marsden for the position of Senior Service Referee.  He joins a rich array of talent on Navy Rugby Referee’s Honours Board, which includes two current members of the RFU’s Professional Referee Unit.  His place on the list is well deserved and has been hard won. However after the graft comes the reward.  Later this season he has two exchange trips to Italy (after match meals traditionally excellent) plus the FIRA AER U19 tournament in Portugal.  However it is in April and May that he should receive his most important appointments.

With Max having officiated the Combined Service U23 v Oxbridge match last season it would be a travesty for Duncan, if fit, not to be appointed to this prestigious fixture in the Service rugby calendar – plus free entry to watch the Army Navy game.  Of course before then he would need a suitable warm up fixture and certainly in my eyes he now has the experience and the matches of the right grade on his CV to follow Steve Harland’s (2008) example and referee the Senior RAF v Army match at RAF Halton.  This appointment would again be deserved and go to show that even with the increasing demands of Service life, Service referees, even submariners, can get to the top.  It would also earn him his Navy Referee colours, a key honour that remains absent from his ever-expanding palmarès.

By Geraint Ashton Jones