Referee Tim Baker's Hong Kong stint propels him to world cup
A former Kapiti resident swapped the rugby ball for the whistle 14 years ago, and is now preparing for his first World Cup.
Tim Baker has been selected to referee at the Women's Rugby World Cup in Ireland next month.
For the last three years he has been the Hong Kong Rugby Union referee performance manager, searching for the region's next international referees.
He took the role after attending an exchange with the Wellington Rugby Referees Association.
His World Cup preparation began in February, when he refereed in the women's Six Nations. He returned to New Zealand for the Women's Rugby Super Series, involving New Zealand, England, Australia and Canada.
Baker's final match before the tournament was Hong Kong's 58-0 loss to Japan earlier this month - both teams will be at the World Cup.
He said he was looking forward to the experience.
"Heading to Dublin, I've never been there. I have heard it is a pretty amazing place.
"Rugby-wise, representing Hong Kong at the World Cup is a massive highlight, in the pinnacle event for women's rugby worldwide.
Baker played rugby for Waikanae and the Paraparaumu College first XV before moving into refereeing.
"For me it was about staying involved with the game. The players were getting bigger and I was getting smaller," he said.
"I was never going to be an All Black so I decided I could go further in refereeing."
Baker has also refereed men's matches. He was in the middle when Dan Carter's Racing Metro beat the Highlanders in Hong Kong, in a battle between the northern and southern hemisphere club champions.
Hong Kong is a tier 3 rugby nation, alongside Zimbabwe, Germany, Brazil and others.
When Japan played Argentina, Baker was an assistant referee. He became the first tier 3 official to be involved in a tier 1 test match.
Baker said he looked forward to returning to Kapiti.
"Coming back home is always great. Seeing family and friends, getting mum's home-cooked meals, and eating the Kiwi treats that we miss out on in Hong Kong."