It’s Tuesday 1st October and we (the 7 full time referees)
are called into a meeting prior to our 2 pm training session to be told the
appointments for the 2013 Super League Grand Final. A season’s hard work from
training to the weekly hard slog of refereeing in Super League it all comes
down to this final week.
Having had the honour to referee 2 Grand Finals in 2010 and
last year’s final there is no better place to referee and no better feeling
than walking out at the theatre of dreams so you can imagine the anticipation
as I walk into the meeting. Jon Sharp
(Head of Referee) then delivers the words I wanted. "The referee for the
grand final will be Richard Silverwood." Joy, relief and excitement soon
grips me. The hard work has paid off and now I start building for one massive
game on Saturday between 2 great sides in Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves.
My preparation starts straight away with a field session at
Leeds Metropolitan University (Carnegie Campus). This includes refereeing
drills simulating situations we feel may occur on Saturday. Ruck area drills
are the theme of the session as both sides are so dangerous around this area
and thrive on quick play the balls so its my duty to get this right. We also
focus on the kicking game of both sides, something Lee Briers does very well to
Joel Monaghan and Matty Smith/ Blake Green to Pat Richards. Kicks across field
throw up different challenges for officials. Are players on side? Are players
obstructed? Are players escorted off the ball? All these things need to be
Wednesday is our day off so my preparation resumes Thursday
with another field session at Carnegie followed by video work back at Red Hall
(RFL Headquarters). We do a video preview every week during the season whereby
we look at areas that may have slipped that need tidying up, the way teams
play, moves etc.., and also any traits players may have so that come game day
the referee is armed with lots of information to help them deal with and manage
the game properly. The video session is followed by our shirt presentations.
This is something new this year and a really nice touch by Jon Sharp and the
Friday I make my way to my Manchester Hotel. The norm on
Grand Final weekend is that the officials arrive as normal 2 hours prior to
kick off. No hotels are provided for us but on my previous finals I have booked
a hotel Friday and Saturday night just to make it that bit different and to
help get myself in the zone ready.
Saturday arrives and the excitement is building. Game day I
like to stick to the same routine which always includes a sleep for a couple of
hours prior to arriving at the ground. During this time I basically visualize
walking out, the start of the game, different scenarios and how I might handle
conflict situations. I find this really helps.
The drive up towards Old Trafford gets the juices flowing. Seeing
the masses of fans hits home I’m about to referee a massive match. I arrive at
Old Trafford and I’m greeted by shouts from fans which range from, “Good luck”
to abuse. Standard! A walk
around the pitch and greeting my team of officials are my first duties. The
banter between us starts which helps just take your mind off the game for a
On most big games we are fortunate to have masseurs work
with us. These are great pre-match just to loosen you up and also relax you and
get you in the right mind set ready to perform. The coin toss is done at 5.15pm
to which Wigan Captain Sean O'Loughlin wins and elects to kick off towards their
home fans in the Stretford end. Final words of encouragement and a few points
to my team of officials follow and now we are ready to go.
The feeling stood in the tunnel with both teams and the
sound of Jerusalem been played out sends tingles down the spine. This is what
you work for - moments like this.
The walk out is deafening, no other place beats that. Truly
I get the cue for the Sky floor manager to kick off and Pat
Richards gets the game underway. The game starts at lightening pace and
straight away within 2 minutes the first major incident to deal with. Blake
Green is down injured and nobody knows what has happened. I then get notified
by the video referee that Warrington's Ben Westwood has caught him in the face
with a swinging arm and that the incident needs to go on report. As the
incident wasn't seen at the time that is the only way we can deal with it. The
incident is place on report and the next set from Warrington I can feel Wigan's
defence gets a lot more aggressive especially when Westwood takes a carry.
The opening exchanges I’d say went to Wigan. A great 40/20
from Green, back up off the canvas sets Wigan up for a good attack at the
Warrington line but they bomb the chance and slowly the momentum swings to
Warrington. Penalties against Wigan start to come as they become a bit loose
with their play and struggle to contain Warrington's speed around the ruck
area. Then as I stated earlier what I had practiced to be ready for, the kick
from Briers to Monaghan comes and Warrington open their account. Warrington
soon post 2 more tries and is becoming a little one sided but Warrington never seemed
to pull away further and Wigan claw their way back into the game and go in at
half time 16-6 behind.
The half time talk between officials is very much how the
game is looking, any issues seen and basically words of encouragement for the
2nd half. We feel the game has gone well for the officials so far. Unfortunate
on the Westwood incident as it’s very difficult to see something like that as
an official so more of the same 2nd half was the message.
The 2nd half is dominated by Wigan. The start to control the
ruck area and feel there line speed is a lot more aggressive than in the 1st
half and Warrington are really struggling to contain them. The game is stopped
a while due to a nasty injury to Joel Monaghan. He gets his head in the wrong
position and is knocked out cold. He is carried off and it’s a key loss to
Warrington. Penalties start to mount up against Warrington mostly for ball
steals or high tackles and this gifts Wigan field position to which the points
start to flow for Wigan.
During the 2nd half there are 2 incidents at a key stage of
the game that go against Warrington. Firstly Myler runs around the back of Paul
Wood close to the defensive line so technically that is a penalty which we have
given all year. I don't like the penalty but that is our policy that’s been
agreed by coaches so it has to be given. That comes as Warrington is attacking
the Wigan line at 24-16 down. The next incident is a tackle of Stefan Ratchford
by Harrison Hanson which again is a massive talking point. Lee Mossop is hold
of Ratchford upright and Hanson comes in and hits Ratchford in the hip and the
pressure from Mossop also bends Ratchford backwards which does damage to
Ratchfords ankle. He is taken off which proves massive for Warrington. As per
current policy guidelines Hanson has done nothing wrong but it’s a tackle that
many coaches are against.
The game ends and Wigan Warriors have turned around a 16-6
half time score to win the Grand Final 30-16.
A really intense game to referee.
As always with a game, that intense and so much at stake you
will always get talking points and things to look at but overall a good job by
my team of officials and another Grand Final under my belt. Roll on 2014