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Honour and a privilege

Wairarapa-Bush’s Rebecca Mahoney taking part in an exercise during a national referee squad Army Boot Camp at Davis Field, Trentham on March 23 this year. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

Mahoney savouring challenge of running Ranfurly Shield match


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From San Diego to Martinborough to Oamaru.

From a test match to a club semifinal to a Ranfurly Shield challenge.

That’s the journey for Wairarapa-Bush rugby referee Rebecca Mahoney, who this Friday will become the first woman to take the whistle in a challenge when holders Otago take the Log o’ Wood on the road to Oamaru for the match against North Otago.

Mahoney returned to her Alfredton farm from San Diego last Wednesday having refereed the USA-Canada women’s Super Series game, won 20-18 by the home side in an upset result.

Mahoney refereeing the Carterton-Gladstone match in April. PHOTO/FILE

Saturday was the first of two firsts for Mahoney as she took control of the Tui Cup semifinal between Martinborough and Greytown.

Safely through the afternoon’s game, it was back to the farm and a few days’ work before travelling to Oamaru, a part of the country she hasn’t been to before.

The honour of becoming the first woman to referee a Shield challenge doesn’t appear to bother the former Black Fern.

“It’s a pretty big honour and it’s my biggest match to date. It’s exciting to get an opportunity. Despite being a female, I am one of the lucky ones to get a Shield game.”

In the 115 years of Ranfurly Shield rugby, only about 220 referees have controlled a challenge.

Mahoney said she expects the game to be quicker but she won’t be changing anything in the build-up.

“I will go through just the same processes, have a conversation with my coach, and view my previous games,” she said.

“I have the same expectations and pressures. I will stick to my normal processes; there’s no point changing anything. You know your own triggers.”

Farming commitments will keep the family at home for Mahoney’s big game.

“They’re pretty busy at work. They’re letting me do my own thing, but the game is televised so they will get to watch it.”

After the Shield challenge, Mahoney has a pre-season provincial game between Taranaki and Whanganui.

Although she is not aware of her other appointments at this stage, it is likely she will have a heavy schedule of women’s NPC games and Heartland Championship matches.

Before then, Mahoney hopes to get back in time to watch this weekend’s Tui Cup final and then “it’s back to reality and lambing. I enjoy the balance, it ticks all the boxes”.

And her final word about the Shield challenge.

“I’ll put the boots on, have a smile on my face. The minute I stop enjoying it I’ll stop. But I absolutely love it.”

National referees manager Bryce Lawrence said New Zealand Rugby were pleased with Mahoney’s appointment for the Shield challenge.

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

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