Making the most of opportunities in Southland rugby

Cassie Watt referees the Tokanui and Ohai-Nightcaps game at Tokanui recently.
Jamie Searle/Fairfax NZ

Cassie Watt referees the Tokanui and Ohai-Nightcaps game at Tokanui recently.

Refereeing has kept Cassie Watt on the rugby field.

Watt played for James Hargest College's girls' first XV but after leaving school, she was unable to find a women's team to join. There was no women's competition in Southland.

She met up with Ryan Duffy, a premier grade referee at the time, and he suggested she try refereeing.

The idea appealed to Watt. She met Southland referee education officer Tony Kelly and a short time later was controlling an under-10s game at Centrepoint Park, near Oreti Beach, in 2009.

"Tony refereed the first half and I did the second half," Watt, 27, said.

"I was super nervous but really excited."

Knowing the basic rules helped her. She came away from the game wanting to commit to refereeing.

Watt refereed under-10s to under-15s in her first two seasons and in 2012, was controlling secondary schools' first XV games.

She remembers her first senior club game - a division two match at Woodlands in 2013. 

"I was quite excited ... I got the call on the morning [of the game], someone had pulled out."

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After blowing the whistle for full time, Watt left the field satisfied with her performance.

"I felt good afterwards ... I felt I was ready to do senior rugby."

She writes a report on all of her games and meets regularly with referee coach Mike Mannix.

Watt talks to Mannix about a variety of refereeing topics. Rugby Southland's referee education officer, Kirk Rae, is also a big help to Watt. 

On referee exchange programmes, Watt has controlled games in Wellington (premier colts games) and in Canada (five high school games).

Every Thursday night, referees meet at Rugby Park to talk about games from the weekend, rules and discuss certain areas of play.

Watt's two goals are to step up from a senior A to a premier referee and to officiate at a women's world cup tournament.

Requirements to be a premier referee include fitness, speed and management (control of games).

The highlight in her refereeing career came last year when she officiated in the women's final of the South Island sevens tournament in Timaru.

"That was awesome and it was a New Zealand Rugby appointment," said Watt, who is a teacher at Myross Bush School.

She has been a teacher for seven years and earlier voiced advertisements and did promotional and reception work at More FM in Invercargill.  

Her husband Aaron Watt is a premier referee but knee surgery has kept him on the sideline this year. He was an assistant referee at Southland Stags' games last year.

Meanwhile, six female referees are registered with Rugby Southland. Watt is the highest ranked at senior A, Louise Moore is next at secondary schools' level and the others are in primary school grades.

 - Stuff

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