Steffan James refereed his 100th premier match as a referee during Saturday’s Nelson Division One final. Photo: Evan Barnes/Shuttersport.

Steffan reaches a century as whistle-blower


Steffan James doesn’t like to be noticed on the rugby field. As a referee, Steffan believes the less he is involved, the better for the game.

“People are there to watch rugby not me blow my whistle,” he says.

However, the spotlight was thrust upon a reluctant Steffan on Saturday as he took charge of his 100th premier match.

“I suppose it was a good milestone to hit, one that to look back on is pretty special.”

A handy player himself, Steffan decided to swap the mouthguard for a whistle in 2006.

“I realised without a fair bit of work in the gym I would be miles too small to make it as a player.”

Having formerly refereed touch to a national level, the 15-man code was a natural progression. Steffan began by refereeing players he had only just finished playing alongside.

“That made things interesting.”

He credits coach Bill Homan for not only getting him into refereeing, but for making him the ref he is today. “I owe him a big thanks.”

Steffan brought up his milestone in the Car Company Nelson Division One final between Marist and Waimea on Saturday.

“It was a really enjoyable game to be a part of between two good teams, they went out to play rugby, it was quick and the score showed how good it was.”

He says both teams and captains are always great to deal with. However, that is not always the case for the man in the middle.

“Everyone talks about the actions of the crowd and it probably is the most difficult part. You can’t please everyone; I just try to remember that you’re always only going to please 50 per cent.”

Steffan’s philosophy as a referee is to not impede the quality of a game.

“I like a game to be played pretty clean and nice and quick. I feel as though a referee’s job is to be a part of the game and not be the game. If I can let game flow, I feel like I have done my job.”

He says, among his highlights was officiating in the annual Quadrangular Tournament, an event he played in as a student of Nelson College.

After 13 years, Steffan says he has been lucky with injury but fears that may run out.

“The body is starting to make a few noises, so I’m not sure how much longer I will go for.”