Rugby referees' feature - Martyn loves refereeing, plays squash and races pigeons

Martyn Rudd (far left) helping to officiate at a top match Martyn Rudd is living proof that there is a sport for most people in Pembrokeshire because after suffering with asthma as a child the advent of medication to keep it under control has meant that he has been a keen and talented squash player for 25 years, played three years of rugby at Llangwm and is now held in high esteem as a rugby referee with junior, youth and second teams whose motto is, ‘Have match – will travel!’
Talk to him for just a short time and his enthusiasm for being a rugby ref shines through and another string to his competitive bow is the fact that for well over 40 years he has been a keen racer of pigeons – but more of that later!

Started reffing because there were no refs at his son’s matches!

Martyn has always loved rugby but missed out in school because of the health factor but when his son Daniel (now 23) was a keen nipper he played on the wing or at scrum half with Haverfordwest RFC – and played right through youth as he played against the likes of Josh McLeod, then playing for Crymych Youth and now doing brilliantly with Llanelli and in the Welsh squad.
“Of course I went along to watch him at every match, with Jason Summers as the coach and his son playing. In juniors we were often without a qualified referee and it was very frustrating for the kids so Jason and I started to take up the whistle.
“Eventually we decided we might as well take the Level One course, most regularly used for those reffing juniors – and before we knew it we were in Carmarthen for a day’s course with Nigel Owens, including a written test, and we were on our way!”

Meeting ‘Twts’ was a big step

“A big step for me came when I was reffing a game between the youth teams of Fishguard and Crymych and at half time I was approached by Crymych coach Andrew ‘Twts’ Thomas, himself a referee, to discuss a point and we managed to sort it out to both our satisfactions – and after the game he told me about the Pembrokeshire Society of Rugby Union Referees and arranged for me to go with him to the next monthly meeting.
“It was the making of me in terms of reffing because there was a great camaraderie and the chance to openly discuss queries without being judged!”
“We also have top officials like Nigel Owens and others delivering seminars and training videos – and to learn from the experiences of other refs, some from very experienced colleagues who still want to ask for comments about incidents that have cropped up in matches.

Moving to Level Two – and great help from assessors

Martyn winning a big race with one of his excellent pigeonsThen three years ago Martyn decided it was time to try and move up to Level Two and instead of a day’s course had to submit to being assessed on a very regular basis.

“There was an assessor at most matches and in general they were a great help because I have always been able to take advice – and I was lucky to often have John Fretter, from Carmarthenshire, who was always constructive in his advice and I found my reffing came on in leaps and bounds!”
At the end of that season he was told that he had achieved Level Two status and he began taking on the challenge of reffing second teams with a tough tussle between Crymych and Whitland at the start of the season.
“It was fiercely competitive and both clubs had some first team players seeking to build fitness or regain form but the time went very quickly and I was genuinely pleased with the way it had gone – and it was nice that both teams thanked me afterwards.
“Another game that was just as competitive soon followed as I refereed Carmarthen Seconds against their counterparts from Llandeilo and again my assessor was pleased with the way I had kept things going whenever possible.

Learning about things other than the 80 minutes of play

One of the things that Martyn had to learn quickly was the other parts of the role before the game started and afterwards, too.

“We have to check both team sheets to make sure both clubs have appropriate front row replacements and the chat with the captains is also important so that the ground rules about acceptable behaviour are laid out.
“Afterwards there is often a meeting with the assessor so that he can point out the plusses and the minuses of whet I have done during the game and I’m a bit of a sponge in the sense that I like to soak up every word and try to build on what I already know.
“When I get home there is the writing of the match report and although there is a natural feeling that it would be nice to postpone this part of the day I have found it is best to get it done as soon as possible.
“It includes details of any serious injuries, yellow and red cards – although sending someone off requires a separate report as well.
“I can still remember the first time I had to issue a red card, which came in a youth match between Felinfoel and Carmarthen Quins and resulted from a clear punch to the face. It is not something I like to do but as I’ve gained in experience I know it is part of maintaining control and in 99% of the cases you know straight away that a player has to go!”

Magic moments to remember

Ask Martin about the highlights of his refereeing career so far and he would be quick to nominate the County Junior Finals Day organised by Ken Davies.

“I think it’s a smashing day out for the young players, their families and friends – and I referee as many games as I’m needed – and volunteer to run the line if I’m not!
“I was also thrilled that in 2019 I was chosen to officiate at the Castell Howell Senior Conference Plate Final between Carmarthen Druids and Llandeilo Seconds which took place at Parc y Scarlets, where Paddy Byrne and Dylan Richards were my assistants – and we had the luxury of wearing mikes, as did John Fretter as my assessor.”
It was a game played at pace before Llandeilo won narrowly in a game where he issued three yellow cards, but on their web site the next day it said,

“Referee Rudd was relentless in the second half as he penalised us,”

And Martyn had to chuckle because he wondered what they might have said about him if they had lost!

Starting out in squash with Peter

Going back to his days at Milford Haven Central School he regrets being unable to play rugby because of his asthma but 25 years ago new medication meant that he could begin to take part in physical activity and he started playing squash.
“I took to it straight away and after a decade of playing after work to relax I started playing for The Meads Club in Milford Haven and I am still playing now in a quintet that includes James Walters, Nick Dyer, Johnny Lee, Gareth Warlow and Mike Carew.
“Peter Crooke has been a superb coach and Will Beresford, who developed so well after starting out in the junior ranks, is someone I enjoy practising with.
“We have won the Pembrokeshire League and Cup many times and also played in the Welsh Premiership against the likes of Cardiff, Swansea, Newport, Barry and Bridgend - and once the lockdown ends I can’t wait to restart.”

Martyn has loved racing pigeons for over four decades

As we mentioned at the start, Martyn followed his father David into pigeon racing and now, 46 years on, he still has his loft and works in partnership with Llangwm rugby and cricket player Simon Brick on the competitive side of his involvement, especially with regard to the breeding side, which of course is vital.
“Our pigeons race home from 100 miles away and even further to places like Germany – and there is great excitement in watching them return home – and we all have different tricks to quickly entice them back into the loft so that we can put the clock on them.
“I was six when I had my first pigeon and now, 46 years on, I still having them!”

And finally . . .

Back on the rugby front, Martyn began playing a bit of rugby when he was a student at Carmarthen Art College, and then came back to join Simon at Llangwm.

“I loved it at Pill Parks and I played at full back or on the wing for three seasons but by then I was almost 30 and my long-suffering partner Hazel and I had Daniel come along so I decided I couldn’t afford to get injured.”
But then refereeing popped up when Daniel started playing rugby to take up reffing - and the rest is history.
You only have to chat to Martyn Rudd for a short while to see his genuine love of rugby and enthusiasm for refereeing, and we can categorically say, having watched him officiate in the County Junior Finals, that he really is doing a great job and is a credit to the game!

Martin in action