Top rugby ref, Joy Neville, from North Circular Road, in action in the world cup final Picture: Sportsfile
THE SKY’s the limit for aspiring female rugby players following a “spectacular” Women’s World Cup, according to Limerick's Joy Neville, who refereed the grand finale at the weekend.
The 34-year-old former Irish captain from North Circular Road, said that she was delighted with her major achievement of reffing New Zealand’s climactic victory against England on Saturday evening.
“Sometimes I have to pinch myself to think that I have achieved what I have achieved to date, from a referee’s capacity,” said the Limerick native, who retired from competitive rugby in 2013 having made 70 appearances for her country.
Asked why she thinks she was selected for the top role, Ms Neville said that she is “hard-working” and has a strong profile in the sport, being a former international player on the pitch.
“The fact that the World Cup was in Ireland and to have a home nation referee in the final, it is a very feel good story. But I was informed that the reason was that I was refereeing extremely well in challenging games, and I put myself in a position to get selected. And that’s what happened, thankfully.”
And even though the Irish women did not make it to the final in Belfast, the standard displayed was “spectacular”, she said.
“This, by far, was the biggest women’s World Cup to date. The amount of media attention, broadcast live over, I think, 10 different broadcasters and channels. The quality, speed and power displayed by these athletes were second to none, and altogether entertaining.
“It’s just as close as any Lions game. And I know that is a massive statement to make, and there was some spectacular rugby played. And I was delighted to see the final broadcast live on RTE, because I think it gave Irish women’s rugby justice, to show the quality worldwide that women’s rugby has.”
She said that the women on the pitch are “wonderful role models for the younger generation to aspire to”.
“I hope to think that young girls can see a rugby career, but also an official career if that is the route that they want to go down.”
Ms Neville said that her next goal is to referee a Pro12 game and a Challenge Cup match in the coming seasons.