VICTORIA - As the next generation of aspiring national team hopefuls takes to the pitch during the Americas Rugby Championship this week, the tournament will also be serving as a valuable proving ground for one of the country's top young referees. At just 24 years of age, Nanaimo-based ref Chris Assmus has already officiated at the NACRA Sevens, Vancouver International Sevens and worked as an assistant referee at the 2012 Junior World Rugby Trophy in Salt Lake City. The upcoming ARC tournament will provide him another opportunity to hone his skills as he works toward his goal of one day officiating full Test matches and refereeing on the International Rugby Board World Sevens Series.
Assmus was forced to hang up his boots in 2006 due to injury and took up officiating to stay involved. His progression of refereeing has seen him officiate a number of club and provincial games, as well as plying his trade at Age Grade National Festival Championships during the summer season. Assmus is one of several BC referees currently making a name for themselves as he joins the likes of Sherry Trumbull and Dave Smortchevsky, two officials earning international assignments in recent months.
"Injury forced me to give up playing and I wanted to keep active within the game," Assmus said. "Rugby has been a part of my life since I was a kid. The game has given me so much, I wanted to help make it more enjoyable for others."
Assmus has completed the equivalency for the IRB's Level Three Analysis and Preparation for Match Officials certification in addition to the Level Two Developing Officiating Skills Program. We caught up with Assmus who took a break from his busy schedule of juggling school and officiating duties at the ARC for the following interview...
When did you first become interested in rugby?
Rugby has been a part of my life since I was a kid. I started throwing the ball with my dad when I was old enough to walk. My best friends were all made from rugby in school.
Where have you played before?
I played age grade rugby for Hamiltons RFC. After moving to Montreal's West Island, I played for Beaconsfield RFC at age grade and senior levels.
When did you first start refereeing? What made you want to be a ref?
I started refereeing in 2006. Injury forced me to give up playing and I wanted to keep active within the game. The game has given me so much, I wanted to help make it more enjoyable for others.
What was the first game you refereed?
I refereed a junior schoolboy game between Selwyn House (Quebec) and Royal West Academy. In spite of some surely shocking decisions, I will never forget how great it felt to be out there in the thick of it. I forgot to start my watch and the first half went ten minutes too long.
What games/tournaments have you refereed recently?
I refereed in the Canadian Rugby Championship, NACRA sevens, the Vancouver International Sevens, and worked as an assistant referee at the Junior World Rugby Trophy in Salt Lake city. At the America's Rugby Championship I will be an assistant referee for 4 of the 6 matches.
What is your favourite memory from playing or refereeing?
I've been lucky enough to have had many fond memories in rugby. The one I will never forget will be my first time at the National Age-Grade Championships in Ottawa back in 2008. I got to work with the best referees in the country. Everyone was so keen to help me and I felt a camaraderie that I hadn't experienced since my playing days.
What is your most embarrassing moment of refereeing?
Although I probably have a massed a few over the past few years, the one that comes to mind is from NACRA sevens. After a Guyana player through a dummy pass in my direction, a Trinidadian player tackled me. The video showed me trying to fend him off...unsuccessfully.
What is the best aspect of refereeing?
The challenge of building working relationships with players. There are so many ways to help make the game better.
What is your least favourite part about refereeing?
Seeing some of the negativity directed at other players and referees that can come from frustration.
What is your occupation and how does it work with your busy refereeing schedule?
I am in my last semester of Student-Teaching. The past few years have given me the opportunity to work extra hours during the week to free up time to referee and travel for rugby. Hopefully I will find work as a French immersion teacher on Vancouver Island after I graduate in December.
What are your goals as a referee?
My goal is to keep improving my refereeing to be suitable for selection at the Test match and Sevens World Series levels.
Is there an international referee you want to emulate?
I try to learn the world class strengths of referees such as Craig Joubert, Nigel Owens as well as retired referees like Joel Jutge and Lyndon Bray. Canada's own Dave Smortchevsky and Bryan Arciero, as well as retired referee Bruce Kuklinski have also taught me many things from their experience.
Anything you would like to add?
Listen to everyone. Even the old guy in the clubhouse has something of value to offer you as a referee.
Level One Officiating Course at Clayton Heights (Surrey) - Oct 19 2012
Level One Officiating Course at SMUS (Victoria) - Nov 2 & 4