Growing up, Rugby was a huge part of my life, like many Samoan teenagers who aspire to make it professionally. Unfortunately, due to injuries, I couldn’t continue to play, but instead picked up a whistle and refereed. My experience on the field can now easily be applied to my professional career.
At a young age, I refereed a backyard game of touch rugby. I enjoyed this so much that at the age of 15, I refereed my first proper game of touch rugby as well as volleyball matches. It was both nerve-racking and exciting at the same time. When summer sports came to an end that year, I went back to play our national sport (rugby), you’ve guessed it.
3 years later is when I injured myself during a rugby match; 6 months of rehab went by really slowly but I managed to convince the coach that I was ready to get back into it. After 10 minutes into the second half, coach gave me the go ahead. All sorts of feelings went through my head but I was stoked to be able to join the lads on the pitch again. Those 6 months of rehab soon came crushing down when I did my ACL again. As you can imagine, this was a very emotional day for me as I knew that could very well be the end of my playing time. Following this, I went through the same process – surgery followed by another 6 months of rehab, and was told by the surgeon that there was a very high chance that I wouldn’t be able to play contact sports or, even worse, could be in a wheelchair if I damage my knee again. News that no player wants to hear.
I still loved rugby, so I decided to pick up the whistle again – this time for Rugby League, largely due to the fact that touch and league are very similar and the transition was easier. A season went by and I realised that being involved in league was not my cup of tea so I went back to where I belonged (rugby) and started refereeing it.
Being the man in the middle brings all sorts of challenges and requires you to think on your feet and make split second decisions. You have to make sure the law is interpreted precisely and manage the game to the best of your abilities. You have to have thick skin because your name would be translated into 10 different colourful languages. Steve Walsh, my favourite referee, and once NZ’s best, quoted “he, who controls himself, controls the game”. This is very true in the refereeing world.
Today, refereeing and coaching is something I do on the side as a hobby. My passion for people, seeing them succeed and grow, has led me down the career path I’ve followed.
It takes a lot to be successful in the professional world, you have to deliver in a timely manner, make quick decisions with precision. In my role, you stand between the candidate and client. Making sure both parties get what they need ethically. However, there will always be disappointed people at the end due to the outcome. My advice is to just keep on keeping on, I don’t take no for an answer, and a yes is always better when it starts with a no.