Editorial, Interview, Player Profile

Meet your World’s Refs: Zach Blackburn

November 4, 2013

The second ref we want to introduce you to is Zach Blackburn. A long time veteran to the sport, I’m sure many of you know him, but as the ref for the 2012 and 2013 World Championship finals, we feel you should get to know ref Zach.

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321Polo: What is your home club?
Blackburn: NYC, home of the first worlds champions (2008, Toronto)

321Polo: How long have you been playing bike polo?

Blackburn: Since 2005, back when it was a drinking game and we just circled out for a dab

321Polo: When was the first time you reffed at a tournament?
Blackburn: I think the World Champs in Geneva (2012) was the first time I actually signed up for the job. I vaguely remember holding a whistle before then, I don’t remember where.

321Polo: What do you think of fans heckling you?
Blackburn: It must mean I’m making too much of an impression on the game. The match and the fans should be focused on the players, it shouldn’t be about what the ref is doing. That said, any true fan isn’t going to like a call against the team they’re rooting for, no matter how deserved.

321Polo: Are there any major changes you hope to see in the reffing world next year?
Blackburn: I can think of a few. In fact, I can think of a couple hundred. I wish NAH would let me rewrite the rule set to make it a bit more readable, and also to close up a couple glaring omissions: like being able to check someone that’s trying to get out of play. Unless they’re in the way they shouldn’t be able to get blasted while heading to tap in because if they protect themselves in any way they’re effecting the game, and thus, get penalized. Also the goalie shouldn’t be fair game for getting checked into the net, they’re in a vulnerable position while standing there and should deserve more respect than being an easy target for elbows and shoulders. The rule against throwing your mallet should include strategically dropping it. The requirements for possession of the ball should be more specific. With the way it was interpreted in Minneapolis this year it was possible to score while having a delayed penalty against you because refs weren’t blowing the whistle until the offending team was controlling the ball for a couple seconds. I was just dreading the moment that someone one-timed it in the net and the shit show that would follow. The high sticking penalty also got out of hand at NA’s. Luckily we didn’t have a rash of sticks-to-the-face at Worlds, but all we needed to do was just take out “attempts” from the stupid rule that says you can’t “attempt to contact the ball above the shoulders etc etc”. It would have been so simple to just say, if you hit the ball over your shoulders you’ll get it turned over. If you hit an opponent with your mallet up, you’re going to get the book thrown at you. Kev got hit twice in the same game by a stray mallet! He had to deal with a minor face injury for the whole tournament, so the offending team should have at least had someone in the box for 2 min or until Kev’s team scored. If that had happened after the first incident, I highly doubt he would’ve been caught a second time up high. Make a big enough deterrent, and people will be a lot more careful about where they’re swinging.

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