Rebecca Mahoney refereeing the Wanganui-Thames Valley Heartland Championship match on Saturday. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

RUGBY

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

Wairarapa-Bush rugby referee Rebecca Mahoney will be on familiar ground when she becomes the first woman to referee in New Zealand’s premier domestic rugby competition on Friday night.

Mahoney will officiate the Mitre 10 Cup match between Hawke’s Bay and Southland at McLean Park, Napier – a ground she knows well.

The former Black Fern played for Hawke’s Bay when she got her first international call up for the 2006 Rugby World Cup.

She also refereed her first Farah Palmer Cup final, in 2015, between Auckland and Wellington, at McLean Park.

Mahoney continues to break new ground for female referees after last year’s Mitre 10 Heartland Championship appointment and this season’s Otago-North Otago Ranfurly Shield clash.

“We’re delighted for Rebecca. She’s a great ambassador for rugby and refereeing,” New Zealand Rugby chief rugby officer Nigel Cass said.

“Through her hard work and performances, Rebecca is showing there’s a pathway for everyone in refereeing.”

The national selectors were pleased with Mahoney’s form and continued development, national referee manager Bryce Lawrence said.

“It’s a great achievement for Rebecca and she has been rewarded through impressive performances and a lot of hard work.

“We’ve challenged Becs the past few seasons through Under-19s, the Heartland Championship last year, and the Ranfurly Shield game a few weeks ago. She’s really taken her opportunities and succeeded.”

Despite the accolades, the Eketahuna sheep farmer continues to take it all in her stride.

“It’s an honour and a privilege and I’m pretty excited about the opportunity. It’s a massive responsibility,” she said.

“I’ve been working hard with [mentor] Harry Quinn and my coach Chris Pollock and I will continue to trust my processes.”

Mahoney is one of six women in the national referee squad. She made the transition to refereeing in 2015 after a successful playing career that included 16 caps for the Black Ferns.

Since then, career highlights include six test match appointments, three Farah Palmer Cup finals, the Commonwealth Games and the Sevens Rugby World Cup.

After Friday’s game, Mahoney has a busy schedule of Farah Palmer Cup games, as well as another Heartland Championship match between South Canterbury and Buller on September 21.