#10 Nia Parsonage - Ruck

#10 Nia Parsonage

#inspire – celebrating female referee’s in rugby

Nia Parsonage has been officiating for decade.

She has rugby to thank for meeting her boyfriend, Simon, who was the first rugby player to ask her out after a match that she actually said “yes” to!

In collaboration with our partners at ACME Whistles, we met up with Nia to chat about growing up in a sport loving family, what rugby means to her and the positive impact the sport has on her mental wellbeing.

Can you tell us a little about your relationship with rugby?

I grew up bonding with my dad over football, rugby and F1. To my mother’s dismay, I kept asking to play rugby (alongside football) and she finally agreed when I was 15.

I’ve faced a lot of people telling me I have no place in rugby and I’m not capable of getting anywhere “decent” with it. I love to prove people wrong, so have not only built a career in sport (working for Umbro UK) but have used my drive and determination to do the “impossible”.

Rugby is my life, and whenever I’m having a tough time, I often find myself heading to a local club to just be out on the pitch and find some inner peace again.

What was your first experience as a Match Official like?

My very first time refereeing was in Vancouver, Canada. I was asked by my club (Capilano RFC) to referee an U14 boys 7s tournament – one week after doing my certification.

I almost threw up before the game from fear. However, 30 seconds after blowing for kick-off, I realised I knew more about the laws than the players and I’d be able to “fake it till I make it.”

Tell us about your most memorable officiating moment to date.

I’m blessed to have had a few memorable moments – not always for things going right though!

I think one I’ll always cherish is when I was an Assistant Referee for Joy Neville on the England W v Scotland W Six Nations match back in 2018 at Twickenham.

The other is my AP15s debut – I was in a team of friends (both ARs, my No.4, and my Performance Reviewer) so it was such a safe space that all I could do was “go well”.

Who inspired you to take up the whistle?

The truth is I got “volun-told” to become a referee. Rugby Canada wanted to increase the number of female officials across the country, so all clubs with a women’s team were told they needed a female referee as well associated to the club.

My coach picked me. I then had a car accident so can’t play anymore, and I preferred refereeing to coaching – I was always told off by refs for stepping onto the pitch!

What motivates you to referee?

I love the challenge. Every team and every game is different. I’ve learned so many life skills from refereeing that have served me well in my professional career.

It’s also my de-stressor, as odd as that sounds! Being able to “switch off” from other things going on in my life to run around on a pitch where I need 100% focus. I’m forced to be present when I referee, and it’s also good to keep general health and fitness up.

In a few words, please tell us what it means to you to be a positive role model and INSPIRE other women and girls to get in to refereeing

At this stage in my refereeing career, it means a lot to me to be able to be a positive role model and inspire other women and girls. To show them they can do it too.

They can be strong, decisive, in control and have respect. And these attributes will only serve them well in other aspects of their life.

If you’re feeling inspired to take up the whistle, find out more about becoming a Match Official here: keepyourbootson.co.uk/referee-toolkit/supporting-match-officials-female/