BRUNEI now has a pool of 12 International Rugby Board (IRB) Level 1 Match Officials after a dozen club and national players attended the country’s first ever Match Official Course on Friday.
The participants were from local clubs Belait Pythons, Bandar Blacks and Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) Sharks, with the one-day course taking place at the Jerudong International School (JIS) and conducted by Matthew Oakley, a qualified IRB rugby educator.
The Sultanate only had two referees prior to yesterday’s course, so understandably, Oakley felt the course was a step in the right direction.
“Brunei is starting from ground zero in terms of developing officials but the sport can only grow if there are willing and competent referees,” said Oakley in an interview yesterday.
“There was a lot of law discussion but it was also very much a hands on, practical course, where we had role plays with the participants acting as referees and players,” he added.
“Rugby is growing in Brunei (and) we need more match officials to officiate school and club matches in our domestic league,” said Brunei Rugby Football Union’s (BRFU) president Dr Hj Kamaruddin Dato Paduka Hj Talib.
Oakley is also in the country to audit BRFU’s application to become an IRB associate member. Among the criteria for IRB associate membership include a four-club league, good governing body and education programmes.
“We have been a member of the Asian Rugby Football Union … and now we believe we are ready to become a member of IRB,” said Dr Hj Kamaruddin.
Oakley and Dr Hj Kamaruddin spent yesterday morning in a meeting with the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Hj Hazair Hj Abdullah yesterday, a courtesy call to brief the minister on what IRB and BRFU are doing for Brunei rugby.
“Matthew offered IRB’s assistance in whatever way they can and he briefed the minister on what the union is doing to get associate membership,” said Dr Hj Kamaruddin
“We have to enhance our capabilities with the resources we have and we hope the ministry will continue to be forthcoming with more resources,” he added.
Dr Hj Kamaruddin said that Pehin Dato Hj Hazair had several suggestions for BRFU, including that rugby be included in future editions of the Borneo Games, the introduction of a rugby tournament for Sixth Form schools in the country and possible areas of cooperation with the Sabah Rugby Academy in Sandakan, Sabah.
He was also open to the idea of BRFU having its own rugby facility in the not too distant future.
“It would be a major achievement if Brunei was to have its own home for rugby,” noted Oakley.