“I owe more to rugby than rugby will ever owe to me” - top referee Nigel Owens shares wit and wisdom at Wymondham Rugby Club dinner
- Credit: Glen Allott
He is widely regarded as the finest, and the funniest, rugby union referee in the world.
And Nigel Owens certainly lived up to the latter at Wymondham Rugby Club's annual fundraising dinner last night.
The witty Welshman, who was honoured with an MBE last year for services to sport, was guest speaker at the event which saw 540 players, partners and friends gather in a huge marquee at the club.
He received a standing ovation for his speech in which he spoke, joked and even sang about his life and journey to becoming an international referee.
'You will get opportunities in life when you least expect it,' he said. 'You should grasp them with both hands and give it your best.'
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He explained that he was 'not very clever' at school and he had no ambition of becoming a referee.
'I was chucked out of class one day and was outside when a teacher said I might as well go and referee a game of rugby some of the younger pupils were playing,' he said. 'I came off the field after the game and I had enjoyed it.'
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He became an international referee in 2005 but said he never felt he had really qualified until he took charge of a Six Nations game.
'Apart from the World Cup it is the greatest rugby tournament in the world,' he said.
In a rare serious moment he spoke of the effect rugby had had on his life and how he had witnessed the positive impact it had on all those involved in the sport.
'One of the most important values and ethos of Rugby Union is the value of respect,' he said. 'From players to officials to spectators, standing next to each other but supporting different teams, Rugby Union upholds the tradition of respect more than any other sport in the world.
'Rugby Union is not only the greatest of team sports on the field, it is the greatest of team sports off the field.
'If it was not for rugby and the good people in rugby, people like yourselves here tonight, I would not be able to be who I am today. I owe more to rugby than rugby will ever owe to me.'
He wished the club all the best as it prepares to build its new multi-million pound home on nearby farmland.
Wymondham also welcomed home one of its star players. Will Evans, who now plays for Leicester Tigers, returned to his former club to help present the youth cups.
During the meal guests were invited to raise money for the club through a variety of games, prize draws and auctions. The biggest bid on the night was £4,000 for a weekend away for five couples including a Premiership rugby match at Gloucester RFC. The club is also selling bricks for the new clubhouse for £50 to be carved with the supporter's name.
Nigel Owens' top five refereeing quotes:
'You're adults, you'll be treated like it as long as you act like it' - he doesn't like whingers and demands respect at all times
'If you want to cuddle, do it after the match' - he tells players how to behave when they start getting a bit tetchy
'The football stadium is that way' - there is no place for prima donnas when he's in charge
'Don't swear now, you're on telly' - he won't tolerate bad language on the pitch
'I don't think we've met before, but I'm the referee' - you can't argue with that