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The growing popularity of Women's Rugby in Australia has had a welcome side effect with more female whistle blowers pulling on the boots and climbing up the ranks.
Sarah Corrigan (ACT) led the way some 12 years ago refereeing a WRWC semi-final in Canada. Since then we have seen the likes of Roberta Barnett (NT & Qld) in the middle for a Wallaroos v Silver Ferns test.
Australia's star female ref is of course Amy Perrett who is now arguably the world's number one. From World Cups to Olympics, Amy has done it all but it is her attitude off the field which makes her such a standout.
Others leading the female referee charge include Amber Hibbard (Vic) and Tyler Miller (WA) has been prominent in the ARU 7’s scene.
But it is the Sunshine State which is really pulling out all the stops when it comes to female refs.
Led by Rachel Horton who has refereed 2 Tests including a 6 Nations fixture of Italy v France earlier this year, the Queensland girls are all pushing their way up the ranks.
Chyna Howlett (25) has been an A grade referee in Townsville and has been a Match Official at IRB 7’s and 10’s. At just 20, Lara West referees Premier colts and Brisbane men’s 1st grade regularly.
Mabel Wiki, an ex Kiwi admittedly, referees regularly at men’s 1st grade level and this year did a couple of Premier Reserve grade matches. School teacher Amy Layton (23) is now refereeing senior rugby regularly and Jane Jacobs (25) last week refereed the semi-final of the Brisbane Womens 1st grade competition. Jane too has been a MO at the ARU Women’s National Championships.
Not to be outdone the North Queensland female referees are charging into the fray. Yolande Moevao, at 19 years of age is refereeing men’s A Grade in Cairns. So too is Stevi Darby- Brennan. Both referees impressed everyone at the QRU State U16 age championships and QLD Schools U15 Championships held in Townsville recently.
And the representation also extends to the Sunshine Coast with Jess Ling and Holly Twidale (both 16) regularly refereeing juniors and schools 7s tournaments in the region.
Queensland is proud to be actively involving so many female referees. Rachel Horton recently conducted a “girl’s only” recruitment programme and has introduced 5 female referees to the QRRA junior ranks.
With opportunities like the Commonwealth Games less than a year away, the competition is getting fierce.