The following blog post is provided by Derek Ray-Hill, South West Referee and member of the touring party to the 2019 Tropical 7s:
Over the Easter weekend LSRFUR were invited to send referees to this year’s Tropical 7s in Orlando, Florida. Well, more accurately, they contacted Hannah Everitt (West Manager) who reffed in Florida for several seasons. And is still fondly remembered by her old crew down there.
Our posse was led by former premiership hooker Nathan Morris (aka Big Daddy) with Rouge ‘the Rock’ Pettit, Pedro ‘the charmer’ Diogo, Harry ‘too cool for school’ Rowland and yours truly. It was a fantastic environment. A four star tropical resort with 8 purpose built pitches with scoreboards. Then to relax afterwards a lazy river, pools, golf course, bike path hot tub, etc. The accommodation and venue were never in doubt, be we had no idea what type of rugby to expect. Were we talking Cranleigh 7s or Surrey Schools? Bournemouth or Fat Blokes?
The tournament features 100+ teams playing 7s across different age groups up to the U23s who are keen to get noticed for their state and national squads. It’s no secret that USA 7s is competitive (the men are top of World Series table after all) but it was a surprise to see so much depth right down to the U14 women’s. Teams came from all over North America and the Caribbean. And so did the refs – with a little British back up from us.
It was two brilliant days. The refs were well organised by Roy Monks. And we were treated like stars. I had two goes on the go pro ‘ref cam’, all of us were filmed at various points on pitches 1 and 2. And Pedro’s smooth interview style was one example of the local media commitment!
Florida is famous for its theme parks. And it felt like we were in one doing the ‘lets pretend to be Wayne Barnes’ experience. But it was also great development. Many of the refs are regulars in international fixtures and the legend Terry Haas (National Referee Coach to USA Rugby) led a workshop with all of us one evening and was on-hand for match assessment/coaching if we asked. I certainly got a lot from his review with me.
And when the rugby and media calmed down, we all had a laugh watching Nathan squeeze in behind the wheel of his ‘compact’ rental car as we headed off to the steakhouse. I’m guessing Wasps and London Welsh provide transport on tour Nathan?
My personal highlight was actually off the pitch as I watched the Quebec U23s lift the trophy in their competition. I played for them in 1993/4 and their coach and I were teammates back in the day. Small world....
Thanks to Hannah, Parky, Roy, the Team at Tropical 7s and LSRFUR for making this happen. Next year lets bring more refs.
Derek 'Shooters' Ray-Hill