CAPE TOWN – Refereeing the 2017 inter-provincial women’s final might be Ashleigh Murray’s career highlight so far, but officiating at the World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series Qualifiers certainly is another big one.
The 22-year-old ref of the Golden Lions’ Referee Society will be one of six referees to officiate at the Qualifiers in Hong Kong this weekend, so I chatted to this promising whistle-blower to talk career goals, life outside of rugby and memorable on-field moments.
1 How did you get into refereeing?
In high school I used to watch rugby with my dad but never understood what was going on, he also didn’t know how to explain the laws in a way that I understood. He later suggested that I try refereeing. Since then I haven’t looked back.
2 Apart from refereeing, what do you do (full-time job/studies)?
I am currently studying multi-disciplinary draughting part-time as I work during the day. But I am also a qualified sports massage therapist and personal trainer.
3 What would you like to achieve in the next five years in terms of your refereeing?
I want to work my way up through the local tournaments, like Varsity Shield/Varsity Cup and the Young Guns, as well as the Currie Cup Under-19s and Under-21s. I must be realistic internationally, as I am competing with the best in the world. Everything counts on my on-field performance, so my aim is to keep growing as a referee, and learning from the coaches who give me advice.
4 What has been your career highlight so far?
The two highlights of my career occurred in the 2017 season where I was privileged to be selected to referee the inter-provincial women’s final between Border and Western Province in East London. I was then selected by Sarra (South African Rugby Referees Association) to go to the Dubai Invitational Sevens.
I first had to pass a fitness test and then Aimee Barrett-Theron helped me prepare for the tournament. It was a fantastic and daunting experience of rugby - for three days each referee has five games to ref per day and on top of that be assistant referee for 10 games. The cherry on the top was at the awards event after the tournament.
Paddy O’Brien announced that six referees would be refereeing the World Series Qualifiers and I was one of the selected referees.
5 Toughest game you’ve officiated?
The inter-provincial women’s final last year. Western Province were trailing the whole game and then the siren went off to signal time up. The score at the time was 15-10 to Border. WP scored a try to make the score 15-15 and kicked over the conversion to win the game 15-17.
6 Most valuable lesson (in refereeing) you’ve learnt?
You can’t control how people are going to react during games emotions get high, and the only thing that you can control is your own actions to stay calm and confident. If you make a mistake do not linger on the error, it’s done, keep blowing the law and deal with the error after the game.
7 What is your favourite thing about the game?
When the game is over and you feel you had a balanced game, the players had a chance to play to their best ability and enjoyed the game, this is the most satisfying feeling for a referee. There are always going to be winners and losers.
8 Are there any refs that you look up to?
Nigel Owens, he demands respect from the players when on the field while still being empathetic and fair.
9 What is the most challenging part of refereeing?
When you don’t have a video of your game and you think you missed something and driving home after the game you play the incident over and over in your head and wonder if you saw it the correct way.
10 What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Control the controllable. This means that your fitness, law knowledge and your on-field performance is what you can control.
11 Your most memorable on-field moment?
In 2014 I was appointed to an inter-provincial game in Nababeep near Springbok. The field was covered in flowers as it was right before the Namaqualand flowers bloomed. During this game there was running commentary over the loud speaker (and the commentator) wanted me to react and answer his questions while on field.
12 Outside of rugby, do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy cooking and baking at home regularly, although the baking becomes a problem when I have to diet and eat healthier for training.
13 Funniest comment you’ve heard on the field?
(During a) Jeppe versus KES (game), I had a Jeppe player complain to me about an opposition player saying he had skew teeth. One of his own players said to him "but why are you complaining? Your teeth are skew."
14 One box you’d love to tick in 2018?
I want to perform to my best ability in Hong Kong, control the controllable, and enjoy the tournament. I would also like to referee the final of the inter-provincial women’s tournament again this year.