Refereeing in a monsoon was all part of the experience for Levin Touch referee Sonny Whakarau at last month's Shanghai International Touch Tournament.

Whakarau, a level 4 elite grade Touch referee, was one of seven Kiwis selected to referee at the one-day tournament that saw more than 600 players from about 50 teams from Asia, including New Zealand.

"We caught the tail end of a category one typhoon out of Hong Kong. It was pretty atrocious conditions but we just got on with it," said Whakarau.

Refereeing a total of 15 games, including semi-finals and two finals, the men's and mixed, Whakarau reckons he clocked up about 30kms running around the fields.


The wet made for a lot of ball dropping so games were more stop/start, meaning more running for the referees to set up the defensive line, he said.

"I was sloshing around in my boots and in muddy conditions you have to be careful how you move and control your speed to avoid slipping up but still maintain control of the game. I was shattered after about eight games but we have a saying here: it's all about survival."

The round robin games were 20 minutes all up with no half time but the semis and finals were 15 minutes a side.

He said the standard of play was about the equivalent of men's mid-A grade in New Zealand so perhaps it was no surprise that an Auckland club from New Zealand won the men's final.

"You can see the difference between the New Zealand and Asian teams. We're hard, fast and aggressive and question the ref all the time. The Asian players are fast and quick but don't question decisions very often."

The 50-year-old Corrections Officer from Shannon had about three weeks to prepare from the call to getting on the plane but said his fitness levels were good, having not long finished refereeing rugby league games during winter and having just starting refereeing Touch.

Although he did a crash course via Google to learn some basic Chinese words such as hello and goodbye, he said the players and Asian referees spoke surprisingly good English. Part of the Kiwi referees' roles was to mentor their Asian counter-parts during the games.

"It was a huge privilege to be selected. You have to work for it and earn it though. I always say aim for the stars."


The trip was paid for by Touch NZ with $300 donated by Levin Touch Module to help with personal expenses.

Levin Touch Module competition starts Monday October 31, Playford Park, from 6pm and includes a total of 14 teams within the Social, B and Open grades.