The whole of the rugby community was deeply touched and saddened to learn of the untimely death of Anthony Foley. Less well publicised was the death too of rugby icon and former Japan player and national team manager Seiji Hirao at the age of 53.
Known universally as "Mr Rugby", he played in the first 3 world cups and won 35 caps, before returning to coach the Japan national team in the 1999 world cup. He was one of the greatest driving forces behind Japan's bid to hold the World Cup, which they will of course in 2019.
Hirao is a great example of just how much meaning rugby has for most of us in our lives. It's a drug to which we become addicted. For the refereeing community it's particularly important to be enthusiastic for the sport, otherwise how would we progress from being just one of the lads (or lasses) in the team to becoming an individual whose decisions can affect 30 (and increasingly up to 44 !) players' enjoyment of a weekend.
It can be a lonely job out there sometimes and it's important to remember that your Society exists as a support network as well as just an administrative body. If you find yourself doubting your abilities or pondering your enjoyment of the game don't forget that there are a whole bunch of us around to put a metaphorical arm around your shoulder or to come along and lend you support. Please don't bottle up any bad feelings. Simply pick up the phone to talk to one of us on the committee or one of the coaches then get out there and get back on track to refereeing with a smile on your face. The more the players see us enjoying ourselves and feeling a part of the rugby community - rather than them and us - then the easier it becomes for us to recruit new members and continue to grow this glorious game.
I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the next monthly meeting, if not before.