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Fit To Referee?

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

Fitness & Fitness Testing…

One of the reasons I started to referee when I stopped playing was to give me the incentive to stay fit. If I wanted to referee at a decent standard, then I had to be fit enough to keep up. That meant running and fitness work outside of game time.

Last season I use the Strava App to record my games. I refereed mainly level 7 and 8 league games and in most matches I ran between 4.5km and 5.0km (average 4.8km), the furthest I recorded was 5.6km in a level 7 league game and 5.4 in a level & cup game, the least I recoded was 3.6km in a level 7 U18 game. These distances are not that impressive and either reflect how little I move or how relatively static those games were (hopefully the latter); the more distant games were definitely the more open flowing games. Whichever it was, this shows that we need to be able to comfortably run at least 5km to referee at Society level.

Fitness testing is becoming a bigger thing in rugby refereeing. At the top level fitness is a huge issue and those guys and gals are seriously fit. At Society level fitness is what you want to make of it, but if you have ambitions to referee at the top of our remit or to progress to Group and then Panel you will need to meet certain fitness bench marks.

Within the Society we have started to request that people do the Bronco Test. This is basically a 1.2km shuttle run (details below). The likes of Beauden Barrett of New Zealand has the record of 4mins 12 seconds and Hugo Keenan of Ireland has reputedly matched this. Christophe Ridley has apparently recoded 4.2 (4mins 20 Secs?). Our own Mark Hyde has a time of 5mins 02sec for the Bronco Test and 20mins 30 secs for a 5km run. The Society is not expecting members to match the professional’s times, but Mark’s times are an indication of what is needed to get to levels 4 and 5. The Society is trying to build up a database of the times people record. In the future your fitness test results may affect the games you are given.

A caveat to using GPS devices to record your games: they are useless for shuttle run type activities. This is a side effect of how they record your location - if they sample your location either side of a turn they will ignore the turn and interpolate directly between the two sample points. This will result in an under measurement of the true distance run; hence every Broncon Test I have done being measured short by my Strava App!

Whatever your fitness regime, you need to keep it up and, if you wish, do some self-testing. Clubs will be starting their pre-season training in July, go down and join in. While you are there you can give them some pointers on the new tackle laws.

I’ve had a look around the internet are various fitness tests and here is a some that I believe are useful and easy to do by yourself without specialist equipment; just a stopwatch, a tape measure and some cones (or any markers).

The 5km Run.

This is an endurance test and has got to be the simplest of the lot. Put on your running shoes, step out of your front door and run 5km (or more if you want). Use a running watch, a smart watch, or your phone (anything with GPS) and record your time. If you want to get a bit more organised and get an “official” time, then join one of the many Park Runs (

The Bronco Test.

This is also an endurance test and is the one the Society wants you to do. Set up markers at 0m, 20m, 40m and 60m (If you are using a standard rugby pitch that is the try line, 2m short of the 22m line, nearest 10m line and furthest 10m line). You then run from the start to each cone and back (20m and back, 40m and back, 60m and back) five times; a total distance of 1.2km. Record your total time. It is intended that you push as hard as possible, but that you also pace yourself to finish with little of nothing left in the tank.

The WATest (Wales Agility Test)

This is an agility test devised by the WRU. Set cones at 0m, 2m, 5m and 15m. Perform a Down & Up at the first cone (0m), run a figure 8 around the second and third cones (2m & 5m), sprint around the far cone and then back to the start. Record your time. Perform one rep every 40secs for a total of 10 reps. Add your time of each rep to get a total. A variation on this is the Illinios Agility Test, but this requires more cones and is run over a longer distance. You could also try the Arrowhead Agility Test or the Cone Drill Agility Test (details on request or just search the internet).

There are lots of other endurance and agility tests out there, so pick what suits you and have a go.

Get Fit, Stay Fit.

Timothy Wilcox

06 July 2023


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