01 Sep 2019
Rebecca Mahoney of New Zealand will become the first female to referee a Mitre 10 match, and Mitre 10 is New Zealand's top provincial competition in which all the players are men.
By Paul Dobson, Moonsport
The Week-5 match on 6 September 2019 is between Hawke's Bay and Southland to be played at McLean Park in Napier.
Rebecca is no stranger to top rugby. She played flyhalf for New Zealand in 16 Tests before becoming a referee in 2015. She is on World Rugby's international panel and has refereed women's rugby at the highest level. She is also no stranger to the men's gamer, having refereed a Heartland Challenge match last year between Poverty Bay and Buller and this year the Ranfurly Shield match between Otago and North Otago.
She is also not alone in her achievement. Alhambra Nievas of Spain, Joy Neville of Ireland and Aimee Barrett-Theron of South Africa all played for their countries and then refereed at the top level of women's rugby and also refereed top men's rugby.
Alhambra was the first woman to referee a men's test - between Finland and Norway in 2017, a short while before Joy did in like manner, refereeing a Scandinavian derby between Norway and Denmark.
In 2016 Nievas and Rasta Rasivhenge of South Africa shared World Rugby's Referee of the Year Award.
Joy also referee other high-powered men's matches - Cork Constitution vs Clontarf in the Irish Premiership, Pontypridd vs Ebbw Vale in the Welsh Premiership, Bègles-Bordeaux vs Enisei-STM in the European Challenge Cup and a PRO14 match between Ulster and the Southern Kings.
Aimee has also refereed women's Tests at the highest level as well as men's matches in South Africa. Last year she refereed the Currie Cup Division 1 match between South Western Districts and the Leopards.
In England, Sara Cox last year refereed her first Premiership match - between Northampton Saints and Wasps and in Australia Amy Perrett last year refereed the National Rugby Championship match between the Sydney Rams and the Canberra Vikings.
There is, of course, no reason why women should not referee men's matches. It has happened in rugby league, soccer and gridiron.
Rebecca's referee career has included six Test matches, three Farah Palmer Cup finals and refereeing Sevens at the Commonwealth Games and in Sevens Rugby World Cup. She and her husband are sheep farmers.