Queenstown referee whistles to the top
A top Touch Southland referee will be calling the shots at the 2014 Open Trans-Tasman Series in Australia this month.
Queenstown's Richie Heap, who has been one of the country's top touch rugby referees for the past three years, will officiate at the series from April 25-27 at the Glen Willow Stadium in New South Wales.
New Zealand and Australian men's, women's and mixed teams will play each other.
"The series is the pinnacle for any referee," Heap said. "New Zealand and Australia are two of the top nations in the world that compete against each other and to be selected with the best of the best is something I've been aiming for since I started refereeing."
"I just really enjoy it. At that level it's very fast and I think it gets easier the higher the level of touch you're refereeing - they all know the rules, you're just there to call it out."
Heap was recruited by Touch Southland regional manager Warren Bryant to assist with developing a touch rugby module in Queenstown.
He has steadily progressed up the New Zealand touch referee ranks after being named Southland referee of the year in 2010 and now helps run the Queenstown competition, refereeing as much as he can and co-ordinating the referees.
Bryant said Heap's contribution to Touch Southland had been extremely valuable.
"Southland has some really talented players, but they can't get to where they are without quality referees like Richie," he said.
"It's been great to see Richie progress through the national referee ranks and to be acknowledged as one of the best in the country."
Heap said he was eyeing a place at the 2015 World Cup, where he aims to be ranked within the top six touch referees in the world.
Sharon Reece is a journalism student at SIT
The Southland Times