Friday, June 26, 2009




A flight of five Pelicans departs for the Midnight Sevens this coming Saturday.

This tournament is a three-fer: a unique expression of the love of our sport in America’s Playground, a SoCal qualifier for the national championship tournament, and the second stop on the new Sevens Cup Series.

The Cup Series will culminate with a $10,000 final to be played at the San Diego Sevens.

Happy whistling to our quintet of blowers.


Cape Fear will be another stop for the Cup Series and the NCRRS will be represented by Paul

Bretz. We believe this will be Paul’s first NorCal exchange since he went to England five years ago.

If it’s been five years since you’ve been on exchange, let us know. That ain’t right


Five Pelicans won’t begin to cover it on June 27:

* Palo Alto summer sevens (9AM): three pitches, nine or more refs needed

* Far NorCal Sevens (3 PM) and NorCal Old Boys v. Nevada Old Boys (5 PM), all in Dunsmuir

(Shasta): two refs should do the trick. It is spectacular this time of year in far Northern

California and the days are at their longest.

* FogFest on Treasure Island (9:30 AM): two pitches, six refs needed

* Classic Eagles v. Classic Canada at Rocca Field (3 and 4:30): we need a ref for the seconds and ARs for both. Unless two dozen volunteers materialize, these will need to be folks who also referee at the FogFest.

Let’s see: if our ciphering is still accurate, that’s nineteen refs to scrape by. So far we’ve counted six wings up: Roberto Santiago, Craig Lusiani, Bjorn Stumer, Chris Tucker, Eric Rauscher and one right here.

If you are someone else and would be able to help a lot of keen ruggers get games, please let us know and if you have a preference for event, which ones.


Scott’s Seafood in Walnut Creek ably and amicably hosted our gathering this past Saturday evening, with hors d'oeuvre circulating among the conviviality of a most happy hour.

We were somewhat embarrassed that only two of the seven Pelican Award winners were present, but the only solution would seem to be to tell the winners in advance. Let’s just say that we might be the only society in the US that can fill up a large banquet room with fewer than half of our active members in attendance.

Donal Walsh was presented with the Shanagher Award and inducted into the USA R&L Committee’s Hall of Fame. Five (of the eight) previous recipients attended.

Donal’s gracious remarks included thank-yous to a referee he studied the Laws with in England, to Denis Shanagher, and to Bryan Porter, among others.

Bruce Carter’s speech inducting Donal is reproduced below.


Rookie of the Year – George O’Neil
Assistant Referee of the Year – Chris Tucker
Most Improved – Scott Wood
Ambassador of the Society – John Coppinger
Pelican of the Year – Mike King
Scriptoris Award – Bryant Byrnes
Bryan Porter Award – David Williamson


June 8: I am here in New Zealand the Wells family has graciously taken me in. I am meeting with Lyndon 10 am my time. Thank you once again for this opportunity. I will keep you up dated of the progress.

June 13: For my first game they gave me a a CLU/Burnside Vs Christchurch Boys High school the game that might be comparable to a Lamo Vs Hayward game. CLU was a mixed side with little coaching that wanted to box instead of play rugby. The Boys High team were faster and well drill as reflected in the score line of 50 - 0 to Boys High. The biggest difference I have noticed are the basic skills, such as passing a catching, only one forward pass and maybe 5 knock-ons mostly in the tackle. Also the knowledge of the game all I had to do was do a primary signal and they all got it, no questions. I have one ref coach that is watching me at all my games he got to see most of the game yesterday. His biggest comment was my lack of aggression or not being assertive at the breakdown, its a bit different then back home. There are not guys on the ground but they are coming from the side and generally trying to cheat at the break down. For the most part I sorted that out as the game went on but it lead to a few scuffles off the ball, the score line and the lack of wrapping in the tackle by CLU did not help but I sorted that out by issuing a Yellow Card to their number 13. Overall I'm happy with the game a look to use it a a building block. I was a bit nerves before the game but think I got that out of my system. Going forward I look to improve on my, for lack of better word, aggression at the breakdown and asserting my presence. I have speed training this week and should have two games and a training session with the academy referees on Wednesday. I have attached my game summary, its an online form down here that s checked with both coach's sending in a game summary sheet as well. Also i found a job a bar, good fun. More to follow.


Did you know about this:

After seeing SFGG on ESPN, and now this, I am convinced that we are going mainstream.

[Editor’s Note: The rugby movie has since been titled: Invictus. This short poem by William Ernest Henley gave our language two phrases: “bloody but unbowed” and “I am the master of my fate:/ I am the captain of my soul.”]


“It's hard for me to find the words to tell you how much I have enjoyed the last ten years as a part of the best referee society in the country. I have learned so much from you and Pete and Paul and Dixon and Mike and so many others over the years. I'm not hanging up my cleats; I'm just taking them and a pelican or two on the road for about a year. Teresa and I have bought an RV and are becoming Full-Timers while we tour up thru Canada and down the eastern seaboard to catch fall colors before heading south for the winter.

“I hope to catch some games wherever I can along the way. I'm going to miss absolutely everyone.

“My email on the road is:

“Humbly scribed,
Pelicus Scrumtius”


USA Rugby R&L Hall of Fame induction speech for Donal Walsh
By Bruce Carter

The caliber of a professional is best judged by peers, not by clients, customers, patients or patrons. Only fellow initiates know the dedication required to excel, understand the state of the art in order to be able to recognize when it’s been bettered, and have the perspective to appreciate lasting contributions.

Tonight we gather as refereeing professionals, guests of the pantheon here assembled, to lend approbation to an increase in their number.

Denis Shanagher
Denis was the first Chairman of USA Rugby’s Referee and Laws (R&L) Committee. He was also an international referee (A-panel). When USA Rugby was founded in 1975 USA Rugby was starting from ground zero. It had no money, no certification courses, and no resources outside the individual assets of its membership. As Chairman of the R&L Committee Denis worked hard to share the limited resources he had available. He organized the first ever national conference for referees held in Golden, Colorado. That conference introduced concepts and solutions to the administrators of the referee societies for the Local Area Unions. It shared expertise on how to referee the game. It began the process of a national process to improve refereeing and referee administration. Denis’ use of local resources to help national development is best exemplified by his using the premier tournament in America (The Monterey Tournament) to bring in evaluators and referees of national interest and let them experience some of the best rugby in America.

Nominated to referee USA – New Zealand in 1980, he stepped aside when his son was named to the Eagles, earning his first Cap.

Denis died in the mid-80’s. In 1990 the R&L Committee established the Denis Shanagher Award in order to recognize individuals who have made prominent and enduring contributions to referee development and administration at the national level. Initially the Nominating Committee was small – the chairman of the R&L Committee and the chairman of the (referee) selection committee.

Recipients of the award became members of the Nominating Committee. Once the committee had sufficient numbers to be self-sustaining, the ex officio memberships lapsed.

The selection committee is now exclusively comprised of prior award winners and it operates as a special subcommittee within the R&L Committee. The award is not an annual award; it is not given unless and until someone merits selection.

There have been worthy contributors to the advancement of refereeing at the national level in USA Rugby who might easily have merited selection, but who suffered untimely deaths. One criterion is that the recipient has to be alive to enjoy the honor of being selected. In that, it is refereeing’s Nobel Prize.

Here are some of the accomplishments of previous recipients:

Keith Seaber
• A Panel in the days prior to USA Rugby’s formation
• Founding organizer of USA Rugby
• Director of Midwest referees
• Responsible for the formation of the R&L Committee and its first chairman

Ian Nixon
• International referee (A-panel)
• Refereed the Eagles v. All Blacks
• President of USA Rugby
• Director of Rugby East referees
• Member of the board of directors for USA Rugby

John Mellish
• B-panel referee
• Director of Rugby East referees
• One of the original four national evaluators
• Tirelessly and effectively served as national evaluator for 25 years

Bryan Porter
• B-1 referee (on the short list to make A panel)
• Stepped aside from active refereeing to become the first chairman of the R&L Committee’s Evaluation Committee
• Successfully eliminated parochialism of the four territories in USA Rugby to establish a national program
• Developed and enforced standards for national and international referees that were respected all over the oval planet
• Maintained the tradition set by Denis Shanagher to maximize local resources for the benefit of national evaluators and referees
• IRB evaluator

Don Morrison
• International referee (A panel)
• Refereed USA – South Africa
• Chairman of the USA R&L Committee
• Chairman of the USA Evaluation Committee
• The first Referee Development Officer for USA Rugby
• IRB trainer
• IRB evaluator

Don Reordan
• Recognized as the best referee in the history of USA Rugby
• International referee (A panel)
• Longest tenured A-panel referee in USA history (18 years)
• IRB World Cup referee in 1987 and 1991
• Appointed by Australia to referee ACT v. All Blacks

Jim Russell
• International referee (A panel)
• Only A-panel referee to earn his way back onto the panel after being dropped – hope for us all
• Chairman of the USA R&L Committee
• Chairman of the USA Laws Committee
• Member of the USA Evaluation Committee
• IRB evaluator

Perhaps a few words about ‘organization’ are in order here.

Organization might consist of mere coordination. In well-founded institutions with plenty of volunteers and sufficient funds, it may entail communicating, keeping track of events, matching names to them and following up. But the modern-day spreadsheet jockey, in the ease of his labors, lounges on the shoulders of the giants here assembled.

They were pioneers; they made their way with no cleared paths ahead of them, ‘organizing’ out of nothing. The trellises that now guide and sustain an American referee’s growth had not yet been built.

Then too, there weren’t the Internet, or cell phones, or faxes – or even telephone answering machines – when these worthies began their work. Letters were written, calls were made repeatedly; it was not a time for immediate communication gratification. Theirs was a labor of the love of the game.

An honor is never diminished for being shared.

2009 is a red-letter year. We have two Denis Shanagher Award recipients:

Peter Watson
• B-1 referee (on the short list to make A-panel)
• Director of Northeast referees
• Chairman of the USA Laws Committee
• Member of the USA Referee Training Committee
• Member of the USA Evaluation Committee
• Co-director of the Development Referee Program

Peter was honored at the New England Society’s dinner recently and we welcome our old friend back to Northern California.

Rugby football in Northern California began in the nineteenth century. It experienced eras of great popularity before WWI, during the twenties when this area provided the players to the Olympic teams, and then a new dawn was marked by the advent of the Monterey Tournament in the mid-fifties.

With a few areas such as California, Boston and New York City having tended the flame for almost a century, a rugby wildfire sparked in the sixties, jumping the firebreaks in the seventies. By 1980 there were essentially as many adult teams as there are now in the USA.

College rugby has continued to spread apace.

The current blaze in youth rugby is the child – well, the children – of that previous outbreak.

Time to extinguish a metaphor.

Such growth could not occur without concurrent improvements in referee numbers, organization and abilities.

Today’s referees take for granted that they can find the Laws on-line or in a convenient boot-bag sized publication. This was not the case those first hundred years.

The IRB published the Laws of the Game of Rugby Football along with various Notes on the Laws that had accumulated over the years at the back of the book, in no particular order. Most referees had never systematically read all of the Laws – they weren’t easy to untangle.

The Laws didn’t reference the Notes where they appertained – you had to flip back and forth to discover whether there were any germane addenda. Loose ends abounded.

This Gordian knot was cut, for all the rugby-refereeing world, by Donal Walsh.

Donal Walsh
• First Chairman of the USA Laws Committee
• Designed and developed a format for the Laws of the game that included a handbook for USA Rugby
• Notes, penalties and annotations were placed within the pertinent Law; using color-coded sections. This format, original to the world, was soon copied universally.

Donal was a prophet of the word, bringing the Laws to the people who needed them, a Biblical act to help lead referees out of the wilderness.

And so we think of Matthew chapter xiii, verse 57: “A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and in his own house.”

Hmmm. It would appear that Donal’s prophet days are about to be over.

Mark Twain wrote:

“It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not to deserve them.”

But best of all it is to earn, to have, and to hold one’s honors and to enjoy the esteem of one’s comrades and colleagues on the occasion.

Ladies and gentlemen, Donal Walsh.


Eric Rauscher reacts to the picture of the safety protocol-corner flag:
“Just a note on the photo. I taped that protocol to the post several months ago before I did a Rhinos game. I am surprised it has lasted this long.”

Donal Walsh & Peers
Bryan Porter, Keith Seaber, Donal, Peter Watson, Don Reardon and Don Morrison, six of the nine gentlemen who have won the Denis Shanagher Award, grace our banquet by their attendance.


For the Senate
Pelicus Scriptoris