New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has awarded three new women’s rugby scholarships aimed at encouraging current and former women’s rugby players to take up refereeing.
Amongst the recipients is former Black Fern and current Blues and Hawke’s Bay first-five Krysten Cottrell, with former Farah Palmer Cup players Chloe Sampson and Kaitlin Bates also receiving scholarships.
Cottrell will this week balance her committments with the Blues in this season's Sky Super Rugby Aupiki and selection as an assistant referee to the Bunnings Super Rugby U20 competition in Taupo.
NZR Women’s Referee Development Manager and current Test referee Maggie Cogger-Orr said the scholarship programme was focused on finding new ways to get women involved in refereeing.
“Refereeing is an amazing way to be involved in rugby and as more women and girls play the game we’re going to need more referees. We know that we need to find different ways to get women involved in rugby and this programme is specifically designed to support their growth as referees.”
The two-year scholarship programme is supported by the New Zealand Rugby Players Association and Sport New Zealand, and will see the recipients part of NZR’s National Referee Squad for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.
Originally earmarked for two successful applicants, Cogger-Orr said the quality of applications led to a change in how many scholarships were awarded.
“We were so impressed with Chloe, Krysten and Kaitlin that we decided to extend the opportunity to all three. They bring strong backgrounds in sport and rugby and have fantastic personal qualities that will allow them to make the most of the scholarship programme.”
Scholarship referees will be provided with one-on-one coaching and renumeration, as well as strength and conditioning, mental skills, and nutrition support.
Former HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series referee Richard Kelly will coach Sampson, with National Referee Squad members Mike Winter coaching Bates and Dan Waenga mentoring Cottrell.
NZR Head of Training and Education Bryce Lawrence said there was already a proven track record of former women’s players making the switch to refereeing.
“We’ve seen real success with people like Rebecca Mahoney, Tiana Ngawati and Selica Winiata make a successful switch from playing at a high level to refereeing. These women have made it visible to others and, most importantly, they’ve absolutely loved it.
“There’s huge potential for these three recipients to make the most of the opportunities both domestically and internationally as the women’s game continues to grow. We’re really exited about supporting them to reach their potential.”
To provide more women with rugby development opportunities, Cogger-Orr has started Rugby 101 sessions throughout the country. Rugby 101 will provide women with an opportunity to develop as coaches and players and become a qualified Associate Referee.
For more information and to register visit www.nzrugby.co.nz/rugby101