It’s official – Hugo’s a rugby ref

Hugo Clarke, 14, has recently been assessed and presented with his official referee Auckland Referees Association uniform. Photo Brad James

On a cold winter’s Saturday morning, you wont find this teenage boy playing Fortnite. Instead he is refereeing Auckland children on the rugby field.

Hugo Clarke, who is in the Year 9 Sports in Education Programme (SIE) at Howick College, has only just turned 14 and is already contemplating a future as an international rugby referee.

Hugo is building a name as a rugby referee, and receives many requests from teams asking him to ref their games.

Disenchanted with the size of some of the players in the open rugby divisions which he used to play in, he decided to opt out of playing rugby in 2016 and instead took up a whistle.

Hugo’s mum Jo said: “In 2016 Hugo saw a boy of similar age to him reffing at an U10 rugby tournament and he said to me, “I am going to do that.  If that boy can do it, then so can I.”

So over the summer of 2016/2017, Hugo started reffing touch rugby at Pakuranga United Rugby Club (PURC). Then last year he became the team ref for the Pakuranga Under 8 Blackhawks.

Hugo went on to ref touch again last summer and continues to ref for the now U9 PURC Blackhawks.  He has also reffed several U11 matches and recently reffed a college match between Pakuranga College and St Peters.

Every Monday night, with the support of his stepfather Scott, Hugo attends the Auckland Referees Association course, and has recently been assessed and presented with his official referee ARA uniform.

Scott is an ARA rugby referee as well as a coach at PURC and he has been a huge support teaching and guiding Hugo as he develops the skills to become a better ref.

He said there is a huge shortage of quality referees and Hugo has received a great amount of positive support from PURC, players and coaches.

“In general, rugby referees get a lot of criticism yelled at them, however at Pakuranga United Rugby Club we encourage positive and supportive sideline behaviour from our spectators as refereeing is a voluntary role and one that not many people put their hands up for,” said Scott.

PURC general manager Stephen Hackett said: “Hugo is a good young guy who has stayed in the game by becoming a referee, he has just received his official referee jersey and we are pretty proud of what he has achieved.”