Natarsha Ganley, a young Northland woman, is taking her first steps on the international stage of rugby refereeing.
Fresh from refereeing at the Hong Kong Sevens, (she’s still scrubbing the mud from her boots!) Natarsha is now contemplating a busy year ahead with North Harbour Referees.
HSBC World Rugby Sevens
The World Rugby Sevens is an experience like no other, and it has certainly been one of the highlights of Natarsha’ s refereeing career so far. Through her hard work and dedication to consistent refereeing practice, she was selected to be a part of the referee team who do sideline and in goal. With one of the best seats in house, Natarsha was able to test out her skills on the world stage, and it’s an experience she will never forget.
“The stadium was at full capacity of 40,000 people- which was incredible.”
One of the stand-out games for Natarsha was the All Black 7s vs Samoa, where Sonny Bill scored a try right at her feet!
From the age of 11, Natarsha discovered her love for rugby. Encouraged by her father and brothers, she played touch with them on many a chilly winter evening. It soon became apparent that she had a feel for the game, so was invited by one of the Northland referees to attend a Monday night meeting to look at getting involved from a referee perspective. Supported by her family, she decided to try it out. “The support from my family and especially my father was amazing. They really kept me focused and helped me develop my skills.”
Referee Training: Getting Started
As well as developing her skills on the field, Natarsha discovered she had a drive to learn more, and so began attending meetings at the Northland Rugby Referees Association. Natarsha found that training to be a referee was a brilliant opportunity to be fully involved in rugby and to have a positive effect on the game.
At these meetings, she and others in a similar situation to her were mentored on how to be a referee. They were given ample opportunity to practice their newfound skills on Saturday matches, to hang out with other referees and to watch them in action. This was a valuable opportunity for Natarsha and the other fledgling referees.
One of the things that surprised Natarsha most was that refereeing requires a different way of thinking. At times, there is a tremendous amount of pressure to make a decision, and make the right decision. But with the right support, coach and game experience this is another thing that you learn and develop when you join an association.
The aspect that Natarsha loved the most about this time was that every other referee was in the same boat as her. “So you begin to build this great little family around you that are wonderful and supportive and have a lot of knowledge and experience to give. And it truly is a unique thing to be a part of.”
After a few months of being an Associate referee and refereeing Kensington Park games, Natarsha became a Full Member and received her jersey. “It wasn’t as big a deal back then as it is now,” she laughs. “Mine was dug out of someone’s storeroom and given to me, but at least it was washed!”
Not to say that the journey has been easy. Women refereeing in a male-dominated sport face their share of slings and arrows. “The players want to see how far they can push you.” In the end, you just have to get out there, and prove yourself on the field. The respect comes from doing a good job.
Woman’s rugby has taken off in the last couple of years. The amount of female players and referees has increased consistently each season, and the effect of this can be seen in the quality of rugby being played in Provincial and even club matches. The message is clear: the future is definitely bright and promising for anyone wanting get involved.
When talking to Natarsha, one can’t help but feel that she has a stellar career ahead of her. Her passion for the game and her drive are truly awe inspiring.
Find out if you have what it takes – Northland Rugby Referee open days are a great way to discover what refereeing can offer you.