Bloem blowing his whistle for opportunity at the World Cup

Every player dreams of playing in a World Cup but, having achieved that aim, Jamie Bloem wants to referee in the game’s biggest spectacle.

The 40-year-old former Doncaster, Halifax and Huddersfield player has taken up refereeing and has been promoted to grade one, just one level below Super League.

Having played for his native South Africa in the 1990 World Cup, Bloem dreams of being involved in the 2013 competition which would complete a remarkable turnaround for a player who was no stranger to controversy.

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In 1994, he was given a two-year ban after becoming the first rugby league player to test positive for using the anabolic steroid nandrolone.

“As a player, the referee is always the first one you turn on, refereeing is a very difficult job to do,” said Bloem.

“Even though I played for nearly 20 years as a professional, if they had chucked me in to do a Championship or Super League game for my first one out, I would never have been able to do it.

“You are completely out of your depth. It’s exactly like being a player. You have to learn where to be, how to move, stand and what to look for. In some ways, it’s an art form, a skill you have to learn. The sooner more people realise that, the better.

“Not every ex-player could be a referee. You have to have a strong character, be able to take immense criticism from players, supporters and the game’s hierarchy.

“I try my best every week, but if a coach or player wants to complain – which I have not really had much about – I am quite happy to talk to them and say why I have made the decision. If I have made a mistake, I will say sorry.

“I have a good rapport with a lot of the coaches, I played with a lot of them, and you try to do your best,” said Bloem, pictured in action for Halifax against Castleford.

He was invited to try his hand at being a referee after the RFL’s director of match officials, Stuart Cummings, heard him criticise the officials while commentating on local radio.

After three years coming through the ranks, this season has seen Bloem officiating in the Championship and Northern Rail Cup, along with Under-20 level in Super League.

“I was commentating at a game for BBC Radio Leeds and I made some comments about the referee, saying how rubbish he was,” recalled Bloem.

“Stuart Cummings must have been listening because he gave me a ring on the Monday and said ‘why don’t you give it a go?’ so I did. I did the course and the exams.

“That was three years ago. I started doing college games on a Wednesday afternoon, then went into the Conference and did academy matches.

“Last year, I did the Under-20s and this year I was promoted to grade one so I’m doing the Championship and Under-20s.”

He accepts he faces a tough challenge to break though.

“I would love to get into Super League but that is a whole new ball game. You have to be at a certain level to get into it, both in physical fitness and mental strength, but I would love to do it. I think I have the credentials to do it.

“I’m probably not ready at the minute, but I am hoping I will be in a year, maybe 18 months’ time, to do a Super League game.

“That comes down to the people in charge. You only have seven Super League games every week, and there’s eight Super League officials, so one of them is already missing out every week,” said Bloem, who runs a family landscaping garden business in Halifax and coaches Pennine League club Stainland Stags.

Former Widnes player Robin Whitfield was the most high-profile player to make the switch to referee before the advent of Super League, and ex-Bradford centre Nathan McAvoy recently took his referees’ exam and is also aiming to reach the top.

“I would love to be part of the World Cup next year, I have let that be known,” said Bloem. “It would be lovely to have played in a World Cup then referee in a World Cup, or be a touch judge, just to be part of it.

“I used to set goals for myself as a player and I set goals for myself now every day of every week.

“I’m not the youngest and I thought age might count against me but I’ve been assured it won’t.

“The rule used to be that, if you’re not grade one by 40, you have to touch-judge, but I’m still one of the fitter ones. If I was offered a full-time role, I would take it.

“I never played in a Challenge Cup final, I never played in a Grand Final, but it didn’t make me a bad player. It just means that I didn’t grab the opportunities or didn’t play in teams that were good enough to get there. It doesn’t mean I was a bad player.

“So if I never referee a Super League game it doesn’t mean I am a bad referee, it’s just that I didn’t get to that grade quick enough.”