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Whistle while you work: The benefits of getting into officiating by someone who has been there and done it

Whistle while you work: The benefits of getting into officiating by someone who has been there and done it

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New Club Secretary, Dougie Hunter, talks about his time managing the discipline of rugby at all levels.

By Gary Heatly

The days of refereeing a rugby game standing in the middle of the pitch and not moving very far have long since gone - and Dougie Hunter refereed and was involved as a match official in some far-flung places for 35 years.

The former George Watson's College pupil admits that when he played for WFC after school, he was turning out at a "very modest level", but a switch to refereeing saw his involvement in rugby go on an exciting journey.

He became one of the best referees domestically in Scotland and, into the 1990s and beyond, opportunities came to officiate all over the world, whether as the man in the middle, the touch judge or on the disciplinary side of things.

In all, Dougie attended five World Cups, four sevens World Cups, four Commonwealth Games and was involved in over 100 internationals and Six Nations games in an official capacity.

There was also involvement in over 100 ERC (now EPCR), World Sevens Series matches and in disciplinary coaching courses which took him all around the globe to such diverse places as Las Vegas, Uruguay, China and Tunisia.

It was the 1978/79 season when Dougie first took up refereeing whilst he was working in Dundee.

"At that time I was travelling back and forth from Dundee to play at the weekends for Watsonians at a very modest level, but it was knackering, so I decided to stop the travelling and take up refereeing with the Midlands Society," Dougie said.

"I never really looked back after that and I finally stopped in 2013, maybe not refereeing that often by that stage, but I was still involved up to that point.

"When rugby went professional in the mid-1990s, they needed people who had a working knowledge of the laws to get involved on discipline panels and the like, and because I was a solicitor, that also helped me.

"So, I got involved on the discipline side of things from then onwards and that was domestically, in European events, in the Six Nations and in IRB (now World Rugby) competitions.

"That was to do with not only on-field disciplinary matters, but also off the field as well, including drugs cases, and in the early years when the game was going professional, it was pretty hectic until things began to settle down a bit.

"If you were the Chairman of the discipline panel that you were part of, which I often was, you'd have to write up the case notes, which could be quite time-consuming, but it was very interesting.

"Through my work within discipline, I was put forward by Scottish Rugby for an unspecified role within the discipline field at the 1999 World Cup.

"I headed down to Cardiff the day before the competition started and we were told that three of us would be involved in citing during the tournament. The three of us looked at each other blankly and said 'what is that?!' (in reality, it is the power to award a player a post-match red card for serious foul play).

"We had to learn pretty quickly as a result and my first game was New Zealand against Tonga when I cited the Tongan full-back three times. He did the same thing each time, he'd approach a tackle and then take a step to the side and let his arm swing up to hit people high.

"Two of those citings were upheld, my journey in citing went from there and I was often asked for advice by various people as I'd been in at the start of that sort of thing coming into the game.

"I was lucky enough to be the citing commissioner for that World Cup final and then subsequent finals in 2003 and 2015. I was also involved in citing at the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, though not for the final.

"I also had a spell on Scotland's Elite Panel of Tough Judges from 1999 for a decade and that was officiating at European, Celtic League and 'A' international level whilst also covering domestic matches at the same time. Through that I knew pretty well every aspect of controlling a game."

Being an official gave Dougie some great memories and some brilliant stories to tell and he wants current club members to perhaps get that same experience.

He said: "Former Watsonians Women's XV player Alex Pratt had a good career as a referee and has now moved into citing while Pam Woodman, who also played for the Women's XV in the past is currently Chair of Scottish Rugby's Discipline Panel (of which I was the immediate past Chair) and it would be really good to see more people with an interest around getting into officiating who have links to the club becoming involved in some capacity going forward."

If you are keen to get involved in being a referee or official of some kind you can email Dougie at

Dougie takes up the club Secretary post.

Due to his refereeing and journeys as an official, Dougie was not able to be actively involved with the club for a number of years because of time commitments.

However, with him now retired from being a solicitor and having put his whistle and citing notebook away for the very last time, he is delighted to be involved as Secretary.

"When I retired in 2018, I said to my great pal Mike Crerar [then the club Treasurer] that I was keen to get involved with helping the club out, though in what role I wasn't 100 percent sure," Dougie explains.

"I got involved in a couple of special projects and then Mick, who was my oldest buddy, died in early 2020 and then 'Savvy' [Iain Leslie, the club Secretary] passed away earlier this year.

"Just before the pandemic came I had started speaking to Stav about all of the jobs he did for the club just so we could get a handle on everything, but then we couldn't meet up because of the lockdowns etc and then in January, he died just hours after we had been on a Zoom call about club business.

"I spoke to [outgoing President] Euan Kennedy and said I was happy to take on Savvy's duties for the next period to help the club out as we navigate out of the pandemic and such like.

"I'm also looking at a number of other things that have been part of the remit of the committee in the past because now [since Super6 began] the club is incorporated as the Watsonian Football Club Limited.

"Albeit in strange circumstances, I'm delighted to be involved in the club again, and there is a great band of people working hard to take things forward into 2022/23."