Check out the country's top performing rugby referees and you will notice a trend.

Many including former Maori All Black Glen Jackson and former Black Ferns and Hawke's Bay Tui player Rebecca Mahoney are former first five-eighths. Suggest to Hawke's Bay's latest addition to the 34-strong National Referee Squad Dan Waenga, another former pivot, this must augur well for his future with the whistle and he nods his head.

"Ex 10s understand the game a little bit more and it makes it easier to transition," Waenga said.

The fact Waenga, a former New Zealand under-20s, Chiefs, Magpies and Bay of Plenty Steamers player, was selected in the squad, which also includes fellow Bay refs Tipene Cottrell, another former 10, and Hugh Reed, after just one full season as a ref must be an indication he is well on the way of achieving his long-term goal of being a professional referee.


"I was over the moon when I got the news. I sat down with my coaches John Harland and Chris Pollock at the start of the year and set some goals. Reaching premier club level was the main one," Waenga, 33, recalled.

"While the selection was out of the blue I have put in the work."

A father of four, Waenga, pointed out the fitness levels required to be a top referee are similar are to those he achieved while being a professional player.

"While there are no weights and I don't miss them there's lots of running, plenty of sprint training and bit of biking."

"We have to get up to 19 in the yoyo test. When I was a player I could do 19.5. At my last test I did 18.3. I know I'm at the back of the pack fitness wise at the moment but I've told the others don't let me catch them.

"I know I've got a few more little steps to make before becoming a professional referee and that would be the ultimate," Waenga said.

A sales business partner for Laminex New Zealand, Waenga, has lost 9kg since taking up refereeing.

"I've got another 6kgs to go to get down to 80kg."


This weekend he will join Cottrell and another of the Bay's top premier club referees, Stu Catley, among six male and four female refs at the national sevens tournament in Tauranga.

"I know I'm at the bottom of the pile in terms of the referees who will be there but you still want to strive for a semifinal or final," Waenga said.

He is looking forward to being mentored by Jackson during the tournament.

"Glen was my kicking coach when I was at Bay of Plenty so it will be good to catch up with him again. He has been massive for refereeing. He has changed the way referees look at refereeing and this has been good for rugby in New Zealand."

Waenga, who is grateful to his employers who allow him to follow his refereeing career, and Catley controlled games at the Central regional tournament in Levin on December 1. Cottrell attended the Northern Regional tournament in Waikato on the same day.

Former international netball umpire Jono Bredin of Otago is another of the newcomers in the squad.

Bredin, who was New Zealand Netball's umpire of the Year in 2015 and 2016 and took charge of the 2018 Commonwealth Games netball gold medal match, said he was looking forward to his new challenge.

"I've had a great netball umpiring career and signed off at the top this year with the gold medal match and Premiership Final. I achieved everything I wanted to in the sport and have decided now is the time to throw all my effort into rugby refereeing and challenge myself outside of my comfort zone."

Bredin said he was encouraged to transition to rugby three years ago by Wellington-based professional rugby referee Ben O'Keeffe.

"I worked closely with Ben when I was umpiring. We did some training sessions together to share ideas and he encouraged me to have a crack at rugby. So far I've been struck by how helpful and accepting everyone is and how keen they are to help. The plan is to repay some of that faith."