Melissa Wright: Playing and Refereeing

NMSRFR Member, Melissa Wright, presented to the monthly meetings during the 2017/18 season on subject of being a female rugby referee. She took the time to give NMSRFR some further thoughts to share via the web. Thanks, Mel!

What’s your rugby background?

I’ve been playing rugby for 11 years after starting at university and was always a bit of an obsessive when it came to watching rugby and understanding the laws. Eventually, I decided I should stop being a sofa referee and just reading the laws on an app and actually get out and ref some real life matches – so in 2016 I did my referee courses and reffed my first match a few weeks later. Having played at nine and flanker, I’m rather familiar with the tricks and cheating you see at the breakdown – which comes in useful when bringing players in line!

What were your first matches as a referee like?

It was quite a wake up call! As a player you can focus on your one role and your experience of the game, but as a referee you need to have your eyes on as many aspects of the match and the players as possible. When you work out the thousands of possible infringements that could happen across the course of a game which you have to be alert to, it blows your mind. So my first few matches were overwhelming trying to get used to that different experience of rugby.

What’s it been like being a female referee?

I’ve barely noticed any difference in how players treat me than from my male colleagues – they’re still just as quick to let me know when they’re not keen on my decisions. Although I do get asked “Is it Sir or Ma’am?” before every single match without fail…! More noticeable is being shorter than most players – it makes seeing any cheating on the opposite side of the scrum a little harder…!

What would be your advice for would-be referees?

The younger you can start the better! Other referees are always extremely willing to support you and help you when you come across any issues – I have multiple colleagues in my phone I can call at any point with a pre or post match worry and they’re always very happy to give advice or simply have a chat.

Also, refereeing doesn’t mean you have to bring an end to your playing days. I still play for my team on Sundays and also referee on Saturdays and the occasional Wednesday. It does mean my life is pretty rugby-centric, but that’s no bad thing.

What do you love about refereeing?

It puts you right at the heart of the game in a way that no player or coach can experience it. You’re right there for the big hits, the magic passes, the fantastic tries. It’s also a constant intellectual challenge, both in the moment when you’re making your decisions and in the work around understanding and interpreting the laws. The camaraderie with the players is also one of the best things about the sport – they may not agree with everything you decide, but nine times out of ten you end up having a brilliant chat about the game in the bar afterwards anyway.

NMSRFR Referee Melissa Wright
Melissa Wright

Are you a player who is thinking of refereeing? If so, get in touch and we can help you start your refereeing career, just like Mel.

Andy Wigley on RFU Panel

Andy Wigley on National RFU Panel
Andy Wigley in Action

North Midlands Referee Andy Wigley was accepted onto the RFU National Panel of Referees at the end of the 2017/18 season.

Having refereed for 6 years, Andy started from the grass roots of the game and worked his way up through the society over 4 years. The hard work paid off when he got onto Midlands Group at Christmas 2015, and has since undergone a great learning curve to enable selection for the Panel.

Commitment and enjoyment is at the heart of his success, being appointed to 61 games last season. Highlights of his season included refereeing at Twickenham, Reserve Referee & 4th Official in the Greene King IPA Championship, Assistant Referee at Rugby Europe and Premiership 7s.

The promotion onto the National Panel has seen Andy’s refereeing style significantly change, as he worked closely with his coach Kelvin Roberts to adapt to the requirements at National League 2.

With the speed of the game changing and the players becoming more challenging, Andy has utilised the resources at his university to improve is performance. Enlisting the help of expert strength and conditioning coaches and nutritionists, alongside sports psychologists to adapt his management and work life balance, he has developed as a person and is able to deal with the demands of the game at this level.

We wish Andy every success in the future and look forward to watching him progress through theNational Leagues and beyond.

Referee Training Plans from Ross Hanbury

Ross Hanbury of Hanbury Training has kindly provided the society with a set of training plans for members to use in preparation for Season 2018/19. Ross has been working with the London Society for some time as well as having had other roles within rugby. He has confirmed he is happy for members to contact him if they want further advice with regards to their fitness training.

There are three levels of plans – “Ref Fit in 30” is an entry level plan designed to get any referee fitter with just 30 minute training sessions over 10 weeks. Above that, there is an Intermediate and an Advanced plan (each has two documents).

You might note that the intermediate/advanced training plans are over thirteen weeks, and the season starts in 11 weeks… meaning the best time to start was a fortnight ago. But the next best time to start, is now!

Ref Fit in 30 – Download NM Ref fit in 30 – 2018

Intermediate Plan
NM Intermediate Training Plan 2018/19 (Excel file with timetable/planner)
North Midlands Intermediate Level Pre Season Fitness Programme 2018-19 (PDF Info)

Advanced Plan
NM Advanced Training Plan 2018/19 (Excel file with timetable/planner)
North Midlands Advanced Level Pre Season Fitness Programme 2018-19 (PDF Info)

Thanks to Ross for his help with this, and if any members have any questions or queries then please email There are also videos of exercises/routines on the Hanbury Training YouTube Channel.


Stud Safety – Smartpower Studs

The society has received confirmation from the RFU that the new “Smart Power” studs present no greater risk of injury to another player than the stud/cleat shown in World Rugby Regulation 12 Schedule 12. Therefore, they can be allowed providing that in the referee’s opinion, they are in good condition and that wear has not made them unsafe – for example, edges have become sharp.

See photos below for more information. The studs currently retail at around £25 for a set of 16 so they are not cheap. The marketing blurb claims they are worn by England’s Joe Marler and Ben Franks of the All Blacks.



Mike Vaughan appointed as Safeguarding Officer

Mike Vaughan has been appointed as the North Midlands Society of Rugby Football Referees Safeguarding Offer.

The Society has also released its Safeguarding Policy which can be accessed via the Policies and Procedures page.

Society members are often in a position of trust with regards to Under 18s and vulnerable adults. Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility whether acting as a referee, advisor, assessor, or coach.

If any Society member has further questions, they should contact Mike Vaughan –