#35 Niamh O'Connor - Ruck

#35 Niamh O’Connor

#inspire – celebrating female referees in rugby

Niamh has been officiating for just over a year and is the only female referee in West Yorkshire.

Her dad, Nick, is the driving force behind her becoming a referee and has supported her every step of the way.

In collaboration with our partners at ACME Whistles, we met up with Niamh to chat about how she got into rugby, what motivates her and why female representation in rugby is so important.

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

I started playing because I grew up going to rugby clubs and from a young age I realised that rugby was more than just a game – it was a family. 

Everyone knows everyone through rugby – whether you used to play with the ref or the opposition coach. 

I started playing again for the old Crossleyans club when I was 12 and have been there ever since up until I was injured at the end of last season.

What was your first experience as a Match Official like?

I was extremely nervous as I was officiating the second half of an under 15s game to ease me in as I had just done my first day of the course and I found that the players respected me more than they did my dad who reffed the first half.

Tell us about your most memorable officiating moment to date.

Very recently I did an under 14s development game with a mixture of Old Crocs, Littleborough and Old brods playing Sandal. 

It was put in the Yorkshire women and girls chat that they were glad and proud to see that they had a female referee officiating their game.

Who inspired you to take up the whistle? 

My dad has been a massive inspiration to me. He inspired me to take the course, supported me when I was terrified and made sure I was comfortable.

What motivates you to referee?

The reactions and pride I feel when people say ‘wow you’re a referee’ and when I tell them I’m one of the youngest female refs in Yorkshire and the only female referee in West Yorkshire the pride I feel is incomparable.

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 attended the Everest conference for female referees a few months ago and I was so inspired by every person that attended that I wanted to do more. I didn’t just want to be another ref that goes out on a Sunday, I wanted to put my all into it. 

And being as young as I am I want to change attitudes and be a role model and inspire the young girls I ref and coach to get into refereeing and see that it’s not just for men and it’s not as scary as they think and the opportunities it will bring them are incredible!

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/