13th June, 2023
As seen on pmn.co.nz
A Cook Island Māori referee is taking on a new role in Australia, and leading the way for those looking at alternative careers in professional sports.
“Refereeing is hard,” says Rochelle Tamarua. “You’ve got to be ten-foot tall and bulletproof.”
Tamarua is leaving for Brisbane today, taking on the Officials Coordinator role with top-tier sporting giant Queensland Rugby League.
“Organising their schedules, it’s like a travel agent, if there’s a tournament in the Gold Coast or whether they need to travel, that’s what I have to do.”
Tamarua is no stranger to breaking the glass ceiling, moving up through the ranks at the Auckland Referees Association, becoming the first woman to referee in the Fox Premiership, and making history last year as a touch judge at the Rugby League World Cup, being the first time two women had been in charge of a world cup fixture.
“It’s quite tough. As a female, as the only female in New Zealand refereeing at international grades, there’s a lot of pressure to ensure that I know the rules, and I apply it correctly.
“We are human too, we do make mistakes, but there’s a sense of acceptance that you’re not going to please everyone, but I love it.”
Speaking to Agnes Tupou on 531pi’s Pacific Mornings, Tamarua says growing up in Grey Lynn influenced her decision to pick up the referee’s whistle, but she was also encouraged by a family member.
“We were surrounded by touch everywhere. My father refereed touch too and he said, ‘hey, do you want to start refereeing?’ and I said, ‘yeah, why not?’, and then grabbed the whistle, started reffing my first game and I just found the love [for it].”
She says the passion was there even at the age of ten, despite changing codes in her final year at Auckland Girls’ Grammar.
“I wanted to find something that was quite similar to touch, and a winter sport.”
Tamarua says her first world cup appearance as a touch judge was between Wales and the Cook Islands in 2022, which was a career highlight.
“That was a proud moment for me. Walking out there as a New Zealander, but also as a Cook Islander, made me smile from ear to ear.”
Rugby league needs more referees
The Auckland Rugby Referees Association officiates more than 3,100 games per year.
Across Auckland’s 23 clubs, Tamarua says it’s encouraging to see more diversity in people who are keen to referee and complete the online courses.
“Pakeha whanāu, you got our Asian, our Indian whanāu that are more than willing to jump on board, regardless of their ethnicity, they just want to come in and try refereeing.”
But she admits there are still challenges.
“It’s not just rugby league – but, all codes, we don’t get paid enough, especially with what we go through on a weekend basis.”
Some as young as 13 can do an online course to referee the under-12 grades, and Tamarua says this is a great learning tool for players.
“How to respect the referee, what the rules are, and it’s to work with the referees and not against them.
“So once they get a taste of refereeing, they understand, ‘oh, actually, this is not an easy job’.”
6 October 2022
Rugby League World Cup 2021 has announced the Match Officials that will officiate the tournament’s 61 fixtures, which includes NZRL referees Rochelle Tamarua and Paki Parkinson, with the tournament kicking off at St James’ Park on 15 October.
Auckland-born and raised, Tamarua officiated her first NRLW season this year, after over ten years of dedication to the code in New Zealand. Parkinson is a seasoned referee taking home NZRL’s Match Official of the Year award in 2021.
New Zealand Rugby League would like to congratulate both Rochelle and Paki on their selection.
“What a proud moment to have two Kiwi officials selected to officiate at the highest level in this game,” says NZRL CEO Greg Peters.
“Both have served our game over many years and their selection shows a positive pathway for referees in New Zealand.”
Peters adds, “It’s exciting to have both Rochelle and Paki on our World Cup Waka, I know they will make their country and communities proud.”
Australian official Gerard Sutton is another name included, with the vastly experienced Australian having officiated the 2017 Men’s final between Australia and England. Sutton has also refereed seven NRL Grand Finals, the 2014 World Club Challenge and matches in eight State of Origin series.
Sutton will also be joined by England’s Jack Smith, a former Royal Marine who was shot by a sniper by the Taliban in 2011 and who has been touch judge in the Four Nations series in 2016 and for the 2017, 2020 and 2021 Challenge Cup Finals as well as the Super League Grand Final in 2021.
Also on the list is Liam Moore, who has officiated at the last two Super League Grand Finals as well as the Challenge Cup Finals in 2020 and 2021. Ashley Klein, who was in charge of the 2008 Rugby League World Cup Final when New Zealand upset Australia to claim their first title, will be participating in his fourth World Cup.
Joining Kiwi Rochelle Tamura, are two other female officials, Kasey Badger and Belinda Sharpe all three are set to officiate across both men’s and women’s tournament fixtures.
The Wheelchair Tournament, which is being run alongside the men’s and women’s competitions for the first time in the sport’s history, will have eight match officials with Kim Abel, Laurent Abrial, Matthew Ball, David Butler, Ollie Cruickshank, Steven Hewson, Grant Jackson and David Roig officiating the matches at English Institute of Sport in Sheffield and the Copper Box Arena in London, before the final heads to Manchester Central on 18 November.
All officials will come into camp before matches for meeting, training and previews to ensure consistency in decision-making and approach, with Men’s & Women’s officials hosted in Manchester and those covering Wheelchair fixtures hosted in Sheffield.
The officials will also attend an Ahead of the Game workshop in conjunction with RLWC2021’s Mental Fitness Partner, Movember, as part of RLWC2021’s Mental Fitness Charter.
Rugby League World Cup 2021 Tournament Director, Dean Hardman, said:
“I am delighted that we have managed to secure such a talented roster of match officials for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.
“Our ambition in all areas is to provide players and spectators with a world class environment with which to enjoy what we hope will be the biggest, best and most inclusive World Cup in the sport’s 127-year history.
“We consider our match officials to be the 33rd team of the tournament and I can’t wait to work with them to deliver high standards across all 61 fixtures.”
Jared Maxwell, NRL’s General Manager for Elite Officiating and RLWC2021’s Lead Match Officials Coach, said:
“We’re delighted to see a number of NRL officials participating in Rugby League World Cup 2021. The tournament brings together the best players from across the globe and it’s important that the quality of officiating meets those same high standards. I know that our officials are really looking forward to travelling to England to play their part in what is looking set to be a fantastic tournament.”
Steve Ganson, Head of Match Officials at the RFL and RLWC2021’s Match Officials Manager said:
“With the men’s, women’s and wheelchair tournaments running together simultaneously for the very first time it was vital that we assembled the best possible team of officials for all three tournaments. This is a vastly experienced group with a huge wealth of domestic and international experience that will play their part in ensuring Rugby League World Cup 2021 is officiated to the best standard possible.”
A full list of the officials who will be in action at the biggest, best and most inclusive Rugby League World Cup in history is available below:
Men’s and women’s tournament officials
Atkins, Grant (NRL); Badger, Kasey (NRL); Bowmer, Dean (RFL); Casty, Ben (FFRXIII); Child, James (RFL); Furner, Darian (NRL); Gee, Adam (NRL); Grant, Tom (RFL); Griffiths, Marcus (RFL); Hicks, Robert (RFL); Horton, Neil (RFL); Kendall, Chris (RFL); Klein, Ashley (NRL); Moore, Aaron (RFL); Moore, Liam (RFL); Parkinson, Paki (NZRL); Poumes, Geoffrey (FFRXIII); Raymond, Wyatt (NRL); Rush, Liam (RFL); Sharpe, Belinda (NRL); Smaill, Michael (RFL); Smith, Jack (RFL); Smith, Todd (NRL); Sutton, Gerard (NRL); Tamarua, Rochelle (NZRL); Thaler, Ben (RFL); Turley, Warren (RFL); Vella, James (RFL)
Wheelchair tournament officials:
Abel, Kim (WALES); Abrial, Laurent (FFRXIII); Ball, Matthew (ENGLAND); Butler, David (ENGLAND); Cruickshank, Ollie (SCOTLAND); Hewson, Steven (AUSTRALIA); Jackson, Grant (WALES); Roig, David (FFRXIII)
August 19, 2022
When the Parramatta Eels and Sydney Roosters open the NRLW season this Saturday, experienced referee Rochelle Tamarua will fulfil a lifelong dream as she takes the touchline. Auckland-born and raised – Tamarua has been one of the game’s elite officials in New Zealand for the past decade, and she intends to use this opportunity as a stepping stone to further her career.
The Cook Island native first picked up the whistle at age ten, refereeing local touch games and competitions. In 2012 whilst attending Auckland Girls Grammar, she took up rugby league and fell in love with the game finding herself adjudicating Holden Cup touchlines only three years later.
Her rise through the refereeing ranks saw her officiate at the NRL 9’s in 2015 and International Test matches between the Kiwi Ferns and Jillaroos (2015 – 2017) while also being the first female to referee in the Fox Premiership.
“I was finding my feet and gaining momentum.” Rochelle added, “The early years shaped and prepared me for this moment. It was such an experience being on the team in the 20s and International Test windows, but I always had the NRL and NRLW on my mind.”
During this window, Tamarua found herself in a position where she had to give up the whistle for a year.
“I had a lot of momentum going into 2017, but the pressures of life forced me to make a decision. I owned a restaurant and was courier driving throughout the week, coupled with the frequent refereeing appointments in Sydney and weekend games. Unfortunately, I had to put the whistle down for some time.”
“When I picked up refereeing again in 2018, the landscape I had known shifted. I had to start again, from touchlines to refereeing junior grades, but I knew what I wanted and kept pushing towards that.”
Rochelle was dedicated to positioning herself firmly in the NRLW scene and worked her way back up to the top level. Returning to the Fox premiership after her hiatus, it wasn’t until this year that her career took off exponentially.
Starting the 2022 calendar year refereeing the NZRL Women’s Premiership and National 20’s Competition. NZRL then flew her to Australia to officiate the NRL National Women’s Championship in Australia, which ran from the 9th to the 12th of June, of which she refereed the final. The following month she returned to Australia, this time in Queensland, as she officiated in the National Schoolboy Championship and the 15As finale.
At the conclusion of the Schoolboy Championship, the NRLW came knocking and for Rochelle, it was the culmination of all the hard work she had put in to get back to this point.
“It was a hard road to get back here, but when I saw the squad list for the NRLW officials, I felt it was all worth it. I told myself I would make it to this point, and after seven years of challenges and disappointments, it feels like a full circle moment.”
Rochelle added, “I wouldn’t be here if it were not for the support systems around me. Organisations like Auckland Rugby League (ARL), New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL), Auckland Rugby League Referees Association (ARLRA) and the many family and friends I had allowed me to achieve my dream.
“I hope this inspires young Māori and Pasifika girls to chase their sporting dreams – whether it is playing or adjudicating.”
NZRL Referees Manager Alan Caddy said, “New Zealand Rugby League are extremely proud of Rochelle’s inclusion into this year’s NRLW Match Official Squad.
“Rochelle has dedicated herself to years of hard work and persistence with help from organisations such as the ARLRA, NRL, NSWRL and NZRL.
“Rochelle will no doubt look to make the best of this opportunity, and her recent success shows there is a pathway for future referees in New Zealand.”
CEO of ARL Rebecca Russell also added, “ARL are extremely proud of Rochelle’s continued achievements in rugby league. Her efforts and continual hard work have been well rewarded with this opportunity. As she steps into this next challenge, we look forward to seeing Rochelle continue her journey as a pathfinder for female and New Zealand referees.”
Catch Rochelle, and all the NRLW action live on Sky Sport 4!
By David Beck – Bay of Plenty Times
When his rugby league career was cut short by an ACL injury in 2015, Bay of Plenty man Paki Parkinson was justifiably upset.
However, rather than sulk or feel sorry for himself, he found a way to stay as close to the action as possible – as a referee. He completed his level one refereeing course later that year and an eagerness to constantly learn and improve has seen him rise rapidly up the ranks.
This week his passion and dedication was recognised when he was named Match Official of the Year at the New Zealand Rugby League Awards.
Raised in Rotorua, Parkinson is a student of the game and first played for Ngongotaha, just as his father and grandfather did. He also spent time playing in Huntly, where he was born, before moving back to the Bay and playing for Otumoetai, for whom he was playing when he suffered his injury.
Since becoming a referee he has not looked back. He is a regular whistle-blower in the Bay of Plenty/Coastline Premier competition, has refereed in a range of national tournaments and in October was the main man in the transtasman women’s test match at Mt Smart Stadium.
Parkinson said he was surprised, but honoured and humbled to win the award.
“I’ve played league my whole life, it’s in the blood really. After the injury I was coaching my son’s league team at the Papamoa Bulldogs and I thought I’d give refereeing a go, just for the junior leagues.
“After that I was invited to referee at the national rangatahi tournament, which was in Hawera that year, and from there I got the bug.”
Being a referee allowed him to stay fit and give back to the game he loves.
“I also enjoy being able to give players better opportunities to get on the field and play.
“The highlight this year would definitely be the transtasman test, that was a major highlight. The Maori Tuakana finals are always a major for me as well, because it’s players you don’t normally get to referee at club level, they’re a lot higher up in New South Wales Cup and even NRL.”
Parkinson said before a game he focused on the job at hand and did not often suffer from nerves.
“You have to be confident in your own ability and game preparation is big for me. Going through scenarios and issues that might come up, that helps me be ready and not nervous.”
The 34-year-old said his ultimate goal was to referee in the NRL.
“Obviously any aspiring referee wants to be in the NRL, age would be a factor in my situation, but I just need to keep putting my hand up for opportunities and nailing them when I do get the chance,” he said.
The man who nominated Parkinson, Bay of Plenty Rugby League referees chairman Graeme Hill said his greatest strength was his constant desire to improve.
“Paki works extremely hard at what he does. He has transitioned from a player to a referee, he’s done that extremely well, and in a short space of time he has basically excelled at the craft. His work ethic and his man management skills are second to none.
“He will continually analyse and review his own performances every week, he’s always trying to learn, always trying to better himself. He made us aware as an association that he wanted to get to the top of refereeing in New Zealand and be able to do it from the Bay of Plenty.
“We’re all extremely proud, it’s quite humbling, I was happy to nominate him and get him in there,” Hill said.
Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Honey Hireme reign supreme at the 2018 New Zealand Rugby League Annual Awards announced on Sky Sport’s Kiwi League Show tonight.
Waerea-Hargreaves (Kiwi #755) had one of his best seasons in the black and white jersey, accumulating over 130 run metres for all four end-of-season Test matches in England, and proved crucial in the Kiwis historic 26-24 win over Australia.
Michael Maguire says: “As a senior player within the Kiwis camp, Jared put a lot of time into discussing the growth of the Kiwi team. He has immense passion towards where he wants to see the black and white jersey and this is a real quality of his,”
“Off the back of his brilliant season in club land, he was in a good position to play his best footy for the Kiwis and that’s exactly what he did. His experience has been invaluable in mentoring younger players to step up into international rugby league,” Maguire says.
The powerhouse prop capped off his 2018 NRL season with his second NRL premiership win, a title he was able to share with Kiwis teammate Joseph Manu (finalist for Kiwis Rookie of the Year).
In one of the biggest years to date for women’s rugby league, Honey Hireme was hard to go past when it came to crowning the Kiwi Ferns Player of the Year, an award she won back in 2012. As co-captain of the Kiwi Ferns alongside veteran teammate Laura Mariu, she crossed the ditch to play for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the inaugural NRL Women’s Premiership, an experience she says has benefitted her game.
“The addition of this year’s NRL competition was great for the women’s game. The fact that we could all come together in Kiwi Ferns camp following four weeks of competing in the elite space, was hugely beneficial when it came to pulling on the black and white jersey against the Jillaroos,”
“The more we can play at the top level, the better our game gets. I’m grateful for receiving this award but would also like to recognise the efforts of the other finalists (Kimiora Nati and Aieshaleigh Smalley) and our Kiwi Ferns teammates, my family for their undying support, management and coaching staff,” she says.
The Kiwis Rookie of the Year award was picked up by Kiwi #810 Ken Maumalo, a player who earnt his Kiwis call-up in June at Mile High Stadium before going on to play in all five 2018 Kiwis Test matches, scoring four tries. His impressive season with the Warriors and Kiwis attracted high praises from coach Michael Maguire and rightfully so, given he amassed 15 tackle breaks and 801 run metres over the three Tests he played against England.
“Both Ken and Jared are two players that are hungry for the Kiwis jersey to reach new heights and that’s pleasing,”
“It has been really enjoyable coaching Ken, the more he plays, the more he grows so I look forward to seeing what he does next year,” Maguire says.
Joining Maumalo in playing her first Test at international level, Onjeurlina Leiataua has been rewarded for her break out season with the Warriors women’s team, and the stellar part she played in the Kiwi Ferns narrow loss against the Jillaroos at Mt Smart Stadium this year. These achievements saw her pick up Kiwi Ferns Rookie of the Year.
Promising youngster, Isaiah Papali’i wins Junior Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, having been awarded Warriors Rookie of the Year and receiving his Kiwis debut in England after leading the Junior Kiwis in their match-up against the Junior Kangaroos in October.
This year’s award winners showcase players and match officials performing at the pinnacle of rugby league, as well as community representatives and volunteers who prove to be the backbone of grassroots rugby league in New Zealand.
New Zealand Rugby League wishes to congratulate the award winners from all 13 categories below:
Pirtek Female Volunteer – Karen Gibbons Karen Gibbons (Akarana, Auckland)
Pirtek Male Volunteer – Lawrence Erihe (Mid Central, Manawatu)
Grassroots Club of the Year – South Pacific Raiders (Southern, Otago)
Domestic Coach of the Year – Keith Hanley (Akarana, Auckland)
Match Official of the Year – Paki Parkinson (Upper Central, Bay of Plenty)
NZ 16s Player of the Year – Sione Moala (Counties Manukau, Auckland)
NZ 18s Player of the Year – Tyler Slade (NZ Warriors)
Domestic Premier Player of the Year – Francis Leger (Akarana, Auckland)
Kiwi Fern Rookie of the Year – Onjeurlina Leiataua (NZ Warriors)
Kiwis Rookie of the Year – Ken Maumalo (NZ Warriors)
Kiwis Fern Player of the Year – Honey Hireme (St George Illawarra Dragons)
Kiwis Player of the Year – Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (Sydney Roosters)
A referee’s journey from tetraplegia to his physical peak
By Lachlan Waugh
20-year-old Brendon Woledge was doing what he loved most when his life changed for the worst.
Playing rugby league, Mr Woledge was experiencing headaches three quarters of the way through his team’s season.
He went to a doctor, who noticed blurry visions and sent him to an optometrist, who then sent him to the hospital, where a CT scan revealed a cyst on his brain which he was born with.
He was booked in for an operation that morning, and from then on he was in hospital for six months, three weeks of which he was induced in a coma.
His spinal cord shot up into the space where the cyst was taken out, which gave Mr Woledge incomplete tetraplegia from the neck down.
He was given an 80 per cent chance of dying, and a 20 per cent chance of being permanently blind. While in a coma, the doctors said he will never walk again.
Now 46, Mr Woledge is a New Zealand Rugby League [NZRL] referee and in the best shape of his life.
But the road to recovery was not so simple.
He says that the news felt surreal when he found out, and it took him a while to comprehend what was going on.
“People call me blasé. When the guy said 80 per cent chance [of dying], I said yeah but how long will be in hospital for and he’s like 3 weeks, and I was like aw yeah sweet do the operation,” he added.
As a result of the operation, Brendon lives with a 50 cent coin-sized hole in the back of his skull, in case anything goes wrong in the future and doctors need to operate.
Although he began running the water for his teammates Brendon slowly felt more left out, and went through stages of self-pity which led to struggles with depression.
He says he started doing his own rehab in the ward.
“So for some reason I rolled out of bed, hit the floor, and I got my legs and started pulling myself around the floor. The nurses saw me doing that, so they put me back up in the wheel chair and wheeled me down to physio and said spend all your free time down there, do what you want to do.
“[From then] Even if it was only little things, like twiddling my fingers as much as I could,” he added.
The death of Mr Woledge’s best friend three years ago, whose life was dedicated to rugby league, inspired him to begin giving back to the game himself.
He took up refereeing, which became a second instinct as he had played in the past. He says the transition was smooth.
Refereeing with NZRL or at home in Wellington, Mr Woledge says the teamwork of referees and supporters on the sidelines is pleasing to watch.
He added it is great to be able to show youngsters that despite injuries, they can still involve themselves in what they love.
“Good to show youngsters even though you have injuries, you can still get back out and enjoy the game you love.”
Because of the operations, Mr Woledge’s fertility was greatly affected, forcing him and his wife to use IVF for his two children. Amongst his difficulties, his positive outlook on life has not changed.
“Make the most of your life,”
Tauranga based referee, Paki Parkinson, is reaping the benefits of the NZRL National Referee Programme. Parkinson was selected to attend the RLIF sanctioned International 9s Tournament in Samoa after his performances in this year’s pre-season trial fixtures.
Parkinson, a former premier player, was identified by NRL Referee and NZRL Match Official of the Year Chris McMillan as someone with great potential when he attended a level one course in the Bay of Plenty. He quickly integrated himself into the referees’ community going on to referee the Final of the 2017 National Secondary Schools Tournament and fixtures of the National Youth Tournament leading to his selection in the NZRL Referees’ Academy.
Paki Parkinson tells us about his experience in Samoa:
“My Samoan journey started with an official welcome into the tournament with a traditional kava ceremony; this was a first for me. Twelve teams total, it looked like a heavy day with 20 matches between three of us. After the meeting the local referees and I shared a few tips around different rulings. I was fortunate to be able to watch the first four round robin games and managed to do a bit of referee coaching. Being able to share some of my knowledge with other talented referees and learn equally from them was a humbling experience.
Over the whole tournament I was privileged enough to referee six games including the finals. Four round robin games, one semi and the grand final. The weather was very humid and challenging to say the least. The weather was a combination of 35-40 degree heat, torrential rain and thunder storms which was so normal to the locals it didn’t seem to faze them. I really enjoyed the quality of Samoan rugby league, with loads of talent shown considering the slippery wet conditions. With two local teams in the final – Apia Barracudas & Marist Saints – the game was played in high spirits and with such passion; Apia coming out on top 12-8. Before flying home I got to experience some local food and culture in which I thoroughly enjoyed.”