#22 Laura Matthews - Ruck

#22 Laura Matthews

#Inspire – celebrating female referee’s in rugby

Laura Matthews has been a refereeing for a year and completed the England Rugby Referees Association course in October 2021.

As a youngster, she went to rugby matches all the time with her dad, but it wasn’t until 2019 that she officially started playing after being encouraged to join a ladies session at her son’s rugby club.

In collaboration with our partners at ACME Whistles, we met up with Laura to chat about how she got into rugby, what she loves about it and how she stays motivated.

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

I played at university in the early 90s after turning up to a taster session. I went because I had followed my dad my whole life round rugby pitches and clubs as he played, but I never thought for a minute that I could actually play!

After finishing uni, there wasn’t a local team for me to join so my playing days ended.

Fast forward to 2019 and I’m at Stafford Rugby Club with my son at his training session, and someone said ‘oh you are here for the ladies session? They are training just there’. Despite my protests, I was marched over, introduced to the team and encouraged to join in.

A week later, I stepped out onto the pitch to play my first game in years! I was terrified and played terribly! But I LOVED it and was welcomed with open arms. I haven’t looked back since.

What was your first experience as a Match Official like?

At the start of this 2022 season, I was approached to help officiate a pre-season friendly. I agreed quickly so I couldn’t back out! Along with my 2 other female ref buddy’s, we took it in turns to ref the match.

It was a men’s seconds game and I was terrified! We had support from a society Ref who gave us loads of great feedback.

Tell us about your most memorable officiating moment to date.

Being an AR at a Colts game at my club. Pre-season friendly and the first time I had officiated at my own club in front of a home crowd! I really focused on getting things right, being fair and watching the ref in the middle for tips!

The boys said at the end of the game that they had never had a female official before and they thought it was great. We also got a round of applause from the crowd!

Who inspired you to take up the whistle?

My Ref society Chairman and fellow Stafford member, Phil Everitt.  I think he is a really great ref – so experienced and supportive of the players and I like that style. I just asked him how he became a ref, and before I knew it, I was introduced to Claire Antcliffe, enrolled in the female match officials groups and doing webinars! I couldn’t back out now could I?!

What motivates you to referee?

I LOVE the game, I love being around the game with like-minded people, and I love the club, community and family feel.

I’m nearing the end of my playing career now, but I want to be involved with rugby beyond that.

Coaching wasn’t something I fancied doing, but by reffing, I can be on a pitch involved in a game, but without the bumps, bashes and scrapes that go along with being a player! Less ibuprofen needed.

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

I carried on playing for senior women’s teams to make sure there was a team for our Roses to go into, and we are just seeing those girls come through now and start their first season of senior rugby.

Rugby and refereeing gives me confidence, empowerment and resilience. All of this is essential in life and work as well as in the game.

Refereeing is another way to challenge myself, surround myself with a positive support network and generally just feel awesome! I believe every woman and girl should experience this and by being visible within the club and the game shows others what is possible. #seeitbeitrefit

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/