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Payne back in first-class harness

Referee Alistair Payne has a close eye on the action in this season’s Carterton-Gladstone game. PHOTO/FILE

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

It has been a long time between drinks for Wairarapa-Bush rugby referee Alistair Payne, who will officiate a first-class game for the first time in five years on Saturday.

Payne will have the whistle for the inaugural match for the Lochore-Meads Scroll game between Wairarapa-Bush and King Country at Trust House Memorial Park.

The game will be Payne’s 14th first-class game, and it will be the second time he has refereed his home province, having previously been in the middle for the Jeremy David Memorial Cup match against Poverty Bay in 2014.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Payne said.

“Referees don’t often control fixtures like this at home, so it is a pleasant change.

“And of course, referees don’t carry a banner for any one team so from that perspective, it is ‘business as usual’.”

The 33-year-old’s last first-class fixture was the Horowhenua-Kapiti-Buller match in the 2015 Heartland Championship when he was last in the national referees squad.

“I have been told by many people I am respected in refereeing circles, and that I should have been retained in the national referees squad but that wasn’t to be,” Payne said.

“I was obviously disappointed not to be retained, but I will enjoy the occasion and relish being at this level once again.”

Payne said he had a strong club season and had been refereeing a good level of rugby but expected the game to be a step up in pace and physicality.

“I am expecting this to be a very challenging match. All first-class games are like that.

“But on the Memorial Park surface and with the weather looking to be ideal, I think we will see a real spectacle.”

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