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Mahoney’s star continues to rise

By Gary Caffell

Rebecca Mahoney is having a ball.

Not much more than two years into her rugby refereeing the former Black Fern and Eketahuna first-five has been making huge waves on that front and is enjoying every minute of it.

Already ranked this country’s number one female referee she has spent much of the last few weeks performing on the international scene and her tripping about the globe will continue through until April at least.

“It’s been great . . . everything has happened so fast it’s still hard to get the head around it,” she told the Times-Age during a brief break from farm duties yesterday.

“There’s been a lot of new challenges and I love that, it keeps life interesting!”

The 33-year-old Mahoney was one of six female referees invited to control matches at the international sevens invitation tournament in Dubai in early December but, as it happened, the only women’s match she controlled there was the grand final featuring sides from England and the Netherlands.

Her other appointments came in the men’s section, including matches featuring the Polish national side, a South African development side and the England Barbarians and Mahoney made such an impression that she was officially named the top female referee of the tournament.

What struck Mahoney most about this particular tourney was the vastness of the crowds with over 100,000 people in attendance.

“The atmosphere was amazing, the crowd was buzzing all the way through.

“They got right into every game, everybody was out for a good time.”

Following on from Dubai Mahoney travelled to Hong Kong to referee her very first 15-a-side international between the Japan and Hong Kong women’s teams.

It was the final match of the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 Asia/Oceania qualification tournament and the biggest test for Mahoney came in the area of communication.

“Many of the players did speak English but not well enough to communicate at high speed so I was pretty much reliant on signals to get the message across.

“It made me think outside the square and fortunately things seemed to work out OK.”

The match itself saw Japan win 20-8 to claim a place in pool C of the World Cup alongside hosts Ireland, France and Australia while runners-up Hong Kong will be in Pool A with Canada, New Zealand and Wales.

Mahoney was impressed at the intensity of the play with both teams keen to spread the ball wide at every opportunity.

“It was very fast, they didn’t muck around.”

Last weekend saw Mahoney in Rotorua for the New Zealand sevens finals and she was in charge of the women’s grand final featuring eventual winners Counties-Manukau and Manawatu.

For Mahoney — and all other referees — the main challenge there was implementing the new high tackle rules and she found they had quite an impact on the games.

“Obviously they are trying to make the game safer so practically any contact with the head in a tackle situation now results in a red card . . . us referees have been told to be very strict on that.

“And when you only have seven players on the paddock to start with losing one can have a huge effect on the end result.”

Mahoney’s attention will now turn to the World Women’s Rugby sevens where she has been appointed to tournaments in Sydney early next month and Hong Kong and Japan, both in April.

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