For Northland woman Te Mania Te Iringa, the journey to become a female referee has been an unexpected and richly rewarding one. With a career in refereeing firmly in her sights, Te Mania hopes she will be able to remain in her beloved Northland.
Te Mania’s passion for rugby began at high school, when her kura kaupapa became part of a 10-aside tournament between other Northland High Schools. As her skills improved she was asked to play for the Hora Hora Women’s’ Team and later was asked to play for the Northland Maori Women’s team. She was proud to be part of this team as they went away for the first time, when they played down in Cambridge.
The start of the refereeing journey
This is when things really began to change for Te Mania, as it was here that the journey of becoming a female referee began for her. During this time in Cambridge, Te Mania was honoured to meet a number of NRU officials, such as Kyal Collins who was the Referee Education Officer for NRRA. Te Mania had made such an impression on him that he encouraged her to think about refereeing, and took her details.
Up to this point, rugby refereeing had never been a path she had considered. However, Te Mania had experienced her fair share of referees with differing levels of experience, and Collins’ words began to resonate with her. The prospect of serving Northland Rugby, and having the ability to encourage other women along the path grew in appeal. When Collins contacted her a year later, she decided to take advantage of the opportunity.
Te Mania cut her reffing teeth on Rippa Rugby, where she thoroughly enjoyed their energy, passion and sheer enthusiasm for the game she loved. The kids at Rippa Rugby lapped up her positive attention and responded well to her guidance and mentoring. For Te Mania, it was like giving them lollies every day! It also gave her the chance to see rugby from a different perspective – the unique and privileged perspective of a referee.
Making the big call – Signing up with NRRA
Te Mania enjoyed the challenge of sitting the referee’s course, and decided to take the next step, and officially sign up with the NRRA. The support, mentorship and availability of the other referees has been humbling for her and is a source of constant encouragement.
Like many other Northland Rugby referees, she has been pleasantly surprised at the wealth of exciting opportunities out there, and has been inspired by other female rugby referees, such as Northland’s Natarsha Ganley. Te Mania has had the opportunity to work with Natarsha on a number of occasions and has watched her career go from strength to strength.
Spotlight on referee opportunities
Although she’s gone onto refereeing at a higher level, it’s the interaction with the younger generation that has really made an impression on Te Mania. She can see that there is a need in Northland for youngsters to be made aware of the possibilities and opportunities, and to be given a chance to take a better direction in their lives. Te Mania feels lucky to have found something she loves, and would like to offer other young Northlanders the same thing.
Her goal for the future – to be the first Maori Female Referee working at an international level. Her confidence, hard-working ethic and love of the game are in no doubt and we’ll certainly be watching her journey forward with great interest.
Interested in becoming a Northland referee? Find out more today!