HKRU Premiership

‘Referees are fitter than players’: former Harlequins star Karl Dickson gives Hong Kong rugby officials a boost

The 35-year-old has taken up the whistle and is officiating two Old Mutual International Men’s Premiership games while in the territory

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 1:59pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 January, 2018, 10:59pm

He’s successfully made the transition from top-flight rugby player to referee and former Harlequins scrum half Karl Dickson is in Hong Kong this week passing on his expertise.

The 35-year-old is working closely with the Hong Kong Rugby Union and will oversee the Old Mutual International Men’s Premiership clash between Kowloon and Societe Generale Valley on Friday night.

“It’s great Hong Kong have a few guys that are full-time and having top referees like that is only going to make the game better here,” Dickson said of a local crop of referees that features Tim Baker and Matt Rodden, who have officiated at international level.

“I’m just having a chat with some of the guys to see where we can improve. It helps me as well because I can discuss things and get different opinions and just try to develop the game over here. Anything I can do to help is great.”

Dickson is here on an exchange between the HKRU and England’s Rugby Football Union, which has seen a number of referees travel both ways in recent years.

He began the transition to refereeing while at Harlequins and is now in the role full-time after calling an end to his distinguished playing career in May last year.

He’s been officiating predominantly in the English Championship with a handful of Premiership games thrown in, giving him a newfound appreciation for the art.

“It’s a lot tougher than people think, as a nine you’re making decisions but if you make a mistake you’ve got 14 other people to help you out. As a referee if you make a mistake you’re kind of on your own,” he said.

“I’ve got a massive amount of respect for them, the last few years you realise it’s a tough job. People are going to make mistakes and you have just got to get on with it. I think it has got a lot better over the last few years, the values of the game and things like that.

“I made the statement earlier in the year that referees are fitter than players and it is a different type of fitness, referees are very fit guys.”

Not everyone has the benefit of a long playing career at the top level to fall back on, but Dickson says that counts for little if he’s having a bad day.

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“You get a certain amount of credibility because of what I’ve done but if I’m getting stuff wrong they are going to tell you no matter who you are,” he said.

“People are going to have a pop at you every now and again and you have just got to deal with it, maybe I deal with it a little different to other people because I know all these guys on a personal level.”

Dickson oversaw the clash between the Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers and Natixis HKFC on Saturday:

“If you’re comparing it back to the UK you’re probably looking at a national one [third tier] standard. It’s very scrappy but you’ve got some good players out there who clearly know what’s going on and it’s getting better and better.”

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HKRU head of match officials Hugh Watkins can see the exchange programme working wonders for the game here: “We are pleased to be able to call on the high performance of the RFU, we have developed a special relationship.”

This week’s local matches are all midweek due to Saturday’s Natixis Cup, with the Tigers taking on Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC and HKFC tackling Bloomberg HK Scottish on Thursday night.