Rebecca Mahoney will be the first woman to referee a Ranfurly Shield challenge. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Wairarapa-Bush referee Rebecca Mahoney will be the first woman to referee a Ranfurly Shield challenge game.

Mahoney will officiate the match between the holders, Otago, and North Otago at Whitestone Stadium, Oamaru, next Friday.

National referees manager Bryce Lawrence said on Wednesday New Zealand Rugby were excited to announce Mahoney’s appointment.

“Bex is one of our promising high-performance referees,” he said.

“She did a really good job in the Heartland Championship last year and she did really well in her recent women’s test match [Canada-USA] at the Super Series in San Diego. Bex is one of our top national squad referees.

“It’s about trying to get her the best position for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup [to be played in New Zealand], and creating opportunities to develop towards that.

In the 115 years of Ranfurly Shield rugby only about 220 referees have refereed a game.

Mahoney will become the first Wairarapa-Bush referee to control a Shield challenge since Bob Francis, who refereed 10 games from 1974 to 1985, including the famous 1985 game between Canterbury and Auckland, widely regarded as the greatest challenge of all time.