South Canterbury's top rugby ref Chris Paul aiming for Mitre 10 Cup

Timaru rugby referee Chris Paul is back in the mix among the New Zealands top whistle-blowers, but he wants to take a further step up this season.
I did one Heartland game in 2019, North Otago against Mid Canterbury, and South Canterbury-North Otago last year. If I keep performing this season theres the possibility of a Mitre 10 Cup.

The 30-year-old has been named in the New Zealand Rugby High Performance Referee Squad that will officiate all national competitions. He has been a anggota before, and the 30-year-old is keen to keep progressing.

Its the fourth year Ive been in the squad. Id definitely like to be able to put my arm up to have a crack at Mitre 10.


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Theres possibly going to be Heartland games. They give us a draw, weve got our coaches, and we work through with them.

The selectors will be watching.

Paul, now in his sixth year of refereeing, blew the whistle on his playing career after suffering concussion when playing as a fullback for Harlequins. He played mainly senior B but also for the Harlequins seniors.

At the time I didnt consider refereeing as an option. A couple of people suggested refereeing and my dad is a referee as well.

My first year of refereeing they put me into a senior B game and then in my second year I started at senior level.

I found it really good. I knew quite a few players back then so there was a bit of banter with the players.

Everyone likes to push the boundaries. Most are pretty good.

Early in his career he received mentoring from one of the best, South Canterburys Colin Hawke who refereed 23 international matches, including at World Cup and Five Nations level.

He said youre the athlete, go out there, and Ill be in the background.

Bejon Haswell/Stuff
Good referees need to be open to feedback, Paul says.

The myriad of rugby rules dont frazzle Paul.

I dont find it too difficult. Once you get your head around them, youve got to pass it onto the players.

A good referee, Paul believed, had to be open to feedback which meant having a tough hide.

Youll always get flak from coaches after a game and the public. You have to learn to take it on the chin and move on, then sit down and look at what you can do to improve.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Rugby high performance referee manager Bryce Lawrence said he expected this year would be one of the most aerobically challenging seasons to date.

We're really happy with how this year's squad has shaped up and how the referees have been preparing for what we all expect to be a physically testing year.

Rugby is always evolving, and judging by the early stages of Super Rugby Aotearoa, and the impact the new law innovations being trialled at that level, we are going to see quicker rugby than ever before in 2021.

The referee squad have been training hard in pre-season with this in mind, really challenging themselves aerobically to make sure they are in the right shape to cover the yards on matchday.

Lawrence said 24 referees had been named in this year's squad with up to five places free to be filled before national competitions kicked off.

The squad is: Paul Williams (Taranaki), Ben OKeeffe (Auckland), Brendon Pickerill (North Harbour), James Doleman (Otago), Mike Fraser (Wellington), Nick Briant (BOP), Cam Stone (Taranaki), Dan Waenga (Hawkes Bay), Tipene Cottrell (Hawkes Bay), Jono Bredin (Otago), Angus Mabey (Auckland), Brittany Andrew (Manawatu), Tiana Ngawati (BOP), Maggie Cogger-Orr (Auckland), Lauren Jenner (Counties), Larissa Collingwood (Waikato), Mike Winter (Waikato), Nick Hogan (Hawkes Bay), Chris Paul (South Canterbury), Daniel Moore (Canterbury), George Haswell (Canterbury), Stuart Curran (Manawatu), Marcus Playle (Auckland) and Selica Winiata (Manawatu).

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