Antz in charge of six grand finals
Referees need to have thick skins and Antz Akavi gives as good as he gets.
The Porirua Vikings stalwart refereed his sixth grand final in a row when premier newcomers Whiti Te Ra beat Randwick on August 20.
He got into refereeing just seven years ago, although he had officiated junior grades for years because his children began playing the game he loved.
‘‘I’m not someone who sat there and read the rules of rugby league cover to cover,’’ he said.
‘‘But I played it all my life, so I know what’s going on. I can pick up the small things on the field easily and I’m not afraid to make the big calls.’’
Never one to mince words, Akavi said one motivation for taking up the whistle was the biased referees from outside Porirua.
‘‘When I was playing [in the 1980s], all the refs were from the Hutt Valley or Wellington. Us Porirua boys didn’t get many calls and it was pretty brutal.’’
Akavi, 45, doesn’t ref the Vikings much during the season, but impartiality is not a problem. If anything, he said he was tougher on the Vikings.
Banter from the sideline and from the players is to be expected.
‘‘I get moan, moan, moan from players at premier level, but you go ref juniors and they shut up and get on with it,’’ he said
‘‘Some of these prem guys get touched and they’re screaming about a head-high tackle. Get on with it, and don’t get me started about the advice I get from the sideline - it never stops.’’
Vice chairman of the Wellington Rugby League Referees Association, Akavi said there needed to be more coming through the ranks. Sometimes he rushed from a game in Porirua to Wainuiomata to do two games in one afternoon.
He has no plans to give it up, although if a coaching role comes up at the Vikings, he will consider putting the whistle away. For now, he has the national provincial competition to keep him busy for the next three months.
‘‘This is my game, I love it and I’ll keep going as long as I can.’’
WHO IS ANTZ AKAVI
Seven years as premier referee. Teams: Warriors and Porirua Vikings.
Favourite fixture: The Vikings v Dragons derby.
Best grand final: Randwick v Te Aroha, 2015. ‘‘ A special game because we were at Westpac Stadium [curtain raiser to Warriors].’’
Favourite ground: Kelburn Park (University). ‘‘It’s quiet, mate. You don’t get any stick from the sideline. Those students are nice and polite.’’