Hi Audrey, It’s a pleasure to get the chance to chat to you,
Hi Cian, lovely to chat to you too!
You are a Leinster Branch rugby referee, how did you start out on that journey ?
I began playing straight out of college as I had focused solely on studying for so long I found myself with very few enjoyable hobbies. So I began playing tag rugby, which turned into playing 15’s and then from there I found myself inching towards possibly refereeing. I studied law in Maynooth University so I already found myself well equipped for reciting laws, spotting infringements and figuring out the appropriate steps to take following. I saw Joy Neville at the World Rugby awards in 2017 she won Referee of the Year and I thought it was amazing. I then saw Leinster Rugby had advertised a workshop specifically for female referees so I went along and from there I began my journey.
Did you play the game before picking up the whistle ?
I played for 2 full seasons with Tallaght Rugby club. The women’s team is young but growing every year, and we played in a development league. It was great to be a part of a team and definitely tough to go from a team environment to refereeing and generally being on my own a lot.
What has been the reaction when you have turned up to referee games ?
Sometimes I get a few comments about being a female or my looks which I know my male counterparts wouldn’t receive, but other than that it’s been generally positive. I’ve learned that when people make comments about my gender that it doesn’t come from a place of malice, but rather they just aren’t used to seeing many female referees and it’s new to them.
What sort of support is available to you through the branch or IRFU to deal with tough situations ?
The support within the Leinster branch and IRFU is amazing. There’s always someone on the other end of the phone to call and chat through a match. If you’re feeling you made a bad decision or even if it’s something like not being able to get positioning right at the breakdown there are so many people to speak to who will help you through this step by step. When I first began refereeing I was approached by Su Carty, a fellow referee, and she took me under her wing. She’s been a fantastic support throughout my entire time refereeing. We have had hour long phone calls discussing plans for my next games and I feel so lucky to have someone like her as a mentor.
What prompted you to begin refereeing ?
When I saw Joy Neville winning Referee of the Year I was so inspired! I mentioned it to a couple of people from my rugby club in Tallaght and the mens head coach Tom Leigh told me to go for it and a few others told me about the female referee workshop!
What type of referee are you, by the book or do you referee each game on its merits ?
I like to take each match on it’s on merits but you need to have some sort of structure and refereeing style. My main aim for each match is to make sure that each player is safe and that there is a good competition. You want to be consistent as well as approachable on the pitch. It’s also important to enjoy yourself and let the players play in good spirits. If your attitude towards the players is negative or unapproachable then you might lose that game management and respect of the players, so I try to stay as positive as I can before, during and after each match.
Which referee if any would you watch the way he or she deals with players on the field of play ?
I love watching videos on Youtube of referees speaking with players! I think George Clancy is fantastic, and Ben Whitehouse speaking to John Muldoon in a Munster v Connacht game in 2015 was brilliant. There are so many examples I could give but I have definitely tried to adopt these mannerisms and soundbites into my own match if appropriate. There is always a nice way of saying thing’s to players or captains and I think it’s important to keep that standard up at all times.
Rugby seems to have an advantage over other sports in the way players speak to referee’s, what are your own personal feelings on this ?
Rugby is definitely one of the most progressive and forward thinking sports in the world and I think a big part of that is respect for the referee at every match. I don’t think I would have it in me to referee soccer or GAA as things can get quite heated on the pitch!
What do you hope to achieve as a referee, would you have aspirations to go as far as you can or would staying local suit you ?
I always say to aim high and you might just reach under that, so I will say that I want to referee a World Cup final, so if that means I referee AIL consistently for a number of years then I would consider that a major win! I am working towards being put on IPAS at the moment which is a 1-2 year period of refereeing in all 4 provinces and being assessed by the 4 provincial associations. If they’re happy with you, you can get put up to the national panel, and that’s my aim at the moment.
What sort of fitness level do need to maintain throughout the year ?
A lot of referees have different levels of fitness, and depending what level you want to referee at this can change. For the last 2 years I have trained with other referees in Terenure Rugby Club run by Paul Haycock twice a week. Then a match, possibly two matches, on the weekend. In between that you would still go to the gym or go for a walk, jog, run. During our training sessions in Terenure we would do a lot of long distance training, speed training, positioning and we would always discuss situations we found ourselves in in our matches from the weekend.
Lastly Audrey, what are your hopes for 2020 ?
My hopes for 2020 have had to be changed due to the pandemic but in general I just want to stay fit and healthy, eat well and look after my mental health too. I’m not sure when rugby will be back at a domestic level, but if it’s this year, I would hope that I can use my learning points from this season and work on them.
Thank you so much for taking the time out to chat with me…..
New Questions :
How are things for you and your family in the current situation during the COVID 19 Pandemic ?
We are all safe and healthy, fortunately. I am currently living with my boyfriend in his parents house to save for a deposit for a house so I can’t say I’m ever lonely! I miss my own family a lot during this, particularly my little sister who is immunocompromised and is cocooning at the moment. However, I know they’re home safe and I will see them all when things go back to normal!
How did your exams go ?
My exams have been postponed to August 2020 which is good as I was finding it difficult to get any study done when there’s a global pandemic. I am so grateful they have been moved to a later date and my heart goes out to those sitting their Leaving Cert’s this year, as well as one of my best friends who is currently sitting final year exams in Trinity College and I can see the stress she is under, no one could have ever predicted thing would be this way
How do you keep structure on your day’s ?
Well I’m working from home at the moment Monday to Friday so that helps a lot in keeping that structure. I think getting yourself dressed and putting on a pair of shoes, just to walk into a different room in the house to work really helps get you motivated and focused for the day. I’m also doing some home work outs a couple of times per week, there’s a lot of great content on Youtube and social media a the moment to help those at home all day. It’s strange because I always say that one of my favourite things to do is “to do nothing”, like just relax. I was always on the go, prior to the pandemic, with training, matches, workshops, area meetings etc. that I never get the opportunity to just sit and watch movies/TV shows or play the playstation, so I’m thinking of this as a positive, rather than a negative, in getting to enjoy simple pleasures.
Thanks Cian! Sorry for the delay!