[Interview] Steve Walsh, the New-Aussie

Steve Walsh is a great guy.

He’s a guy who, after having left the NZRU (New Zealand Rugby Union) for personal reasons, integrated succesfully the Australian Federation, where he achieved to regain the top level. Exclusively on Esprit de la Règle, we managed to interview him :

« – First of all, how did you get the idea to ​​become a referee ?

I had a spinal injury when I was 13 years old and the doctors told me it was not wise to continue with contact sports such as rugby. I then coached a boys rugby team at my local club for the next 2 seasons, however I didn’t really get that much self-satisfaction doing it. My parents had a close friend that refereed at the time and suggested I try that. So at 16 I refereed my first game of rugby.

Do you remember of your first test ?

Yes, it was Argentina vs France in Buenos Aires 1998. I was 26 years old.

Do you have some rituals before your matchs ?

No, I’ve always been very determined not to get sucked into that sort of thing.

If you could come back in the past and referee a former game of your choice again, would you make the same decisions ?

With every match I’ve ever refereed there are always decisions I’ve made or interactions with players that after reviewing my performance I think I could have done better. I think that is what keeps me really interested and keen, is finding ways to continuously improve.

– We noticed that you use to talk a lot with players. What is your kind of management of them on the field ?

I certainly don’t talk a lot on the run and I try to only communicate to effect a change from a player, however as long as that player hasn’t already had an effect. I do however think using downtime in play as a useful time to let either the captain or a certain player know what I expect from them. I use this time to try and prevent future actions from the players to try and prevent PK’s. 

What is the essential role of the ref in your opinion ?

Certainly at the very top level of the game I am convinced it is about managing men and getting them to do what they don’t want to without becoming a dominant figure. Concentrating solely on technical refereeing won’t cut it. 

A more intimate question… Which brand of whistle do you use !?

Acme thunder, wide mouth.

We suppose you train very hard… How do you physically prepare to the games ?

It obviously depends on what stage I am in the season and if Im refereeing every week and how much international travel is involved. However to give you a basic idea my training is set out by an ARU trainer and it involves cardio training, almost exclusively anaerobic interval training, weights, speed sessions and stretch sessions.

What has been your most difficult match to referee ?

Probably 2000, Australia v South Africa in Perth. It was my first Tri Nations game and I was found wanting that night and out of my depth at that early stage in my career.

What do you recommend to the young referees who are beginning their career ?

Make sure you enjoy what you are doing, don’t be in a rush to progress up the ranks to quickly (experience is a very important ingredient in refereeing) and most importantly referee the game that’s in front of you and what is required in that match and certainly not for the assessor in the stand.

– Last question : what is on your mind the most difficult aspect in refereeing ?

From a technical point of view it’s the breakdown and having clarity about what I want to see and what is not acceptable. But overall it’s control my own environment and how I’m feeling leading into an during the games. It’s taken me a long time to understand how I need to be (emotional control) to deliver high quality performances. To sum it up I suppose it’s more about sports phycology. »

We obviously have to conclude this article by thanking Steve Walsh very much, who had the huge kindness to accept an interview directly coming from us. A french translation of the interview is available on this website too. Thanks to the ARU as well, who transmitted our e-mail to him. 🙂

Please excuse some possible english mistakes by the authors. 😉

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