Despite the tough physical requirements of being an official, Graeme Bloom continues to chase his dream of being a rugby referee despite his MND diagnosis.
Inspired by the likes of Doddie Weir and Rob Burrow, he continues to be an official at local games despite being diagnosed with the disease.
Although now in a wheelchair, Bloom continues to be heavily involved on a matchday, taking charge of the coin toss, checking the player’s studs and starting both halves.
“The dream for me is to referee a full game of rugby if I can,” revealed Bloom to RUCK. “It would be amazing if I can get involved in a professional game in some capacity. That would be a bucket list sort of moment for me and would be the icing on the cake for all my hard work.
“I love coming down and being involved with games but I’m hungry to do more if I can and test myself. It’s what I love to do.
“I hope I can get to do something like that. To be part of a team with world-class referees would be special for me.
“I look up to them and it would be fantastic if they could offer some time to me in some capacity. Hopefully, someone can see my story and make that happen.”
Moving forward, Bloom, who was refereeing down at Oxford RFc this weekend, believes there needs to be a clearer pathway for people with disabilities to be involved with rugby.
“There’s been a lot of barriers for me. I think the RFU could be doing more to support disabled people like myself wanting to be referees,” he added.
“I hope to be a bit of a pioneer for someone in a wheelchair to look at me and think I can be involved in rugby.
“You always hear people say ‘why don’t you get involved with wheelchair rugby’ but that is a different sport. My passion is for rugby union and that is where I want to continue to be involved.
“I’m trying to demonstrate that although I’m in a wheelchair, there are aspects to refereeing in rugby that any person in a wheelchair could do. For instance a fourth official who manages the time, sin bins and substitutions.
Bloom would like to give special thanks to all the clubs that have been willing to engage with what he’s trying to achieve.
He made special mention of the LSRFUR Peter Coulthard and the Oxfordshire Referees Society Rob Cross for arranging his continued involvement within the games and Referees Experience.
What is MND? (NHS)
Motor neurone disease is an uncommon condition that affects the brain and nerves. It causes weakness that gets worse over time.
There’s no cure for MND, but there are treatments to help reduce the impact it has on a person’s daily life. Some people live with the condition for many years.
MND can significantly shorten life expectancy and, unfortunately, eventually leads to death.