Alistair Payne refereeing last year’s Tui Cup final between Gladstone and Carterton. PHOTO/FILE

RUGBY

ELI HILL
eli.hill@age.co.nz

While players dust off their boots in preparation for the upcoming rugby season, the Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Referees Association still has a few whistles to hand out.

The association has put out the call for anyone with an interest in refereeing – or rugby for that matter — to attend its annual general meeting tomorrow.

Rebecca Mahoney, left and Masterton-born Black Fern, Shakira Baker, at the Rugby World Cup Sevens last year. PHOTO/FILE

Rebecca Mahoney – one of the association’s most prominent members said benefits of refereeing include fitness, travel, and a way to stay in the game.

“Really, the world’s your oyster through refereeing. I’m off to Scotland next week for the Women’s Six Nations and I’m not going to say no to those sorts of chances.

“There are so many opportunities and it all depends on how hard you push for them.”

Mahoney will be officiating the Scotland-Wales match in Glasgow on March 8 – a role that has involved 20-25 hours of preparation a week.

“Refereeing at the professional level is similar to being a professional rugby player. There’s a really good pathway there for people.

“There’s a lot of mental and physical performance that is required. The same way that coaches have a game plan, you’ve got to have your own plan for the way you want to operate the match.”

Mahoney made history last year at a Heartland Championship match between Thames Valley and King Country – she became the first woman to referee a men’s first-class match in New Zealand.

“I just love that you can be involved in the game. You’re able to give back and support the sport. I get to challenge myself physically and mentally.”

Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Referees Association chairman Graeme Reisima, who has been refereeing for more than 20 years, said that in addition to the opportunities the role provides, it was also a good way to stay in the game.

“I came from a playing background, I had a young family at the time and couldn’t commit full time but still wanted to be on the field.

“It can be daunting getting started as a referee, but once you put those initial fears behind you, the rewards massively outweigh the time it takes.”

Reisima said the association tends to operate around 20-25 referees a season and hopes the opportunities that refereeing provides will be enough to lure in some newbies.

“There’s an age-old saying that without a referee you don’t have a game, but we’re trying to move past that.

“For many people in netball, football, cricket and rugby refereeing is actually their sport – it’s the way they play the game.

“A lot of people will start off at primary and secondary school level for their kids, then find they love the game and want to continue it further.”

The association provides all the training a budding referee needs and holds weekly training where the focus is on keeping up with the rules and working through physical fitness.

Wairarapa-Bush senior referee and secretary of the association Alistair Payne, said new referees would always be needed.

“At times, there are strains with individuals refereeing more than one game on a Saturday, so it would be great to have some new recruits.

Payne has been refereeing for the past decade and has officiated 12 first class national games, four consecutive premier club finals, and at the national secondary school semifinals.

He got into the role after one of his school teachers encouraged him to head along to a referees’ meeting.

“I refereed my first game that weekend which was a grudge match – Wairarapa College Gold versus Wairarapa College Blue.

“I enjoy the games that have higher intensity where teams really battle it out in the middle. I also enjoy the social side off the field.”

The association is holding its AGM at the Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union rooms from 7.30pm tomorrow.