After over a decade at the peak of domestic rugby, Taranaki referee Cam Stone has called no side on his career.
The 40-year-old father-of-four has retired from active duties after a journey he calls “rewarding”.
“Twelve years has been a long time for my wife and children to be at home by themselves on the weekends and it’s time to give time back to them,” he said.
Stone began refereeing in 2010 and made a rapid rise through the ranks. By 2012 he was the number one ranked referee in the province and selected in the New Zealand Rugby national referee squad. He made his first-class debut in the same year when he refereed Wairarapa Bush v Poverty Bay in Masterton.
He went on to referee 69 first-class matches and was an assistant referee for Super Rugby games and eight internationals, including Australia-Ireland in 2018. His last match was this year’s NPC semifinal between Wellington and Hawke’s Bay at Sky Stadium, where he made his first division debut in August 2015.
Locally, Stone spent 11 years in the annual Taranaki top five. He refereed the last four consecutive premier finals, five overall, including the blockbusting extra-time final between New Plymouth Old Boys and Stratford-Eltham in July, one of over 100 premier club games he controlled.
Earlier this year, Stone spent time refereeing in the American Major League Rugby (MRL) competition, refereeing the Western Conference final and was an assistant referee for the national final. His overseas experience included attending the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Sanix World Youth Championships in Japan in 2016 and matches in Global Rapid Rugby.
With those opportunities, he could see parts of the world, which he admits, he may not have seen if it wasn’t for rugby.
Stone remembers the 2020 Ranfurly Shield match between Otago and Hawke’s Bay, which was the most intense fixture he’s refereed.
“It took some real management of Ash Dixon and others on this particular day. Just what I love.”
He enjoyed the chance to challenge himself as a person in a highly stressful and competitive environment.
“It gives you the opportunity to reflect and learn as things don’t always go how you would hope.”
Stone said the biggest challenge was time. Refereeing isn’t about what you do on the field, he says, it’s about the hours away from the paddock.
“I’ve been lucky to have a wife who has allowed me to do what I have done and as my kids have grown up, she has given them the opportunity to come along to a lot of games. Ava [daughter] has run water for me on numerous occasions, including two NPC games.”
He’s noticed some shifts with the game since he started refereeing. He said rugby has become defence orientated and the involvement of the TMO around foul play.
“We seem to have lost the understanding that we are human, and it’s okay to make mistakes, we need to get back to that.”
One of his biggest learnings is “be yourself”. Stone said he regrets trying to be someone he wasn’t for the first seven to eight years of his NPC refereeing.
“Ultimately, this meant that I was not at my best when significant opportunities arose.”
His advice to others will continue as Stone has been earmarked to coach upcoming referees locally.
“As a teacher, I enjoy the coaching and development part of the game and look forward to the opportunity to support others in making the most of their refereeing careers.”