From a very early age Rebecca Mahoney has been passionate about sport.
Raised in the Alfredton District on a sheep/beef farm, Rebecca excelled in age-grade sport, particularly in football before encountering the Bush Women's rugby union team at the age of 15 and deciding this sport was for her.
She joined that team, quickly rising through the ranks, playing for Wairarapa/Bush and Wellington before becoming a Black Fern and playing as first five-eight in the winning World Cup teams of 2006 and 2010. She played 16 games for the Black Ferns before deciding in 2014 while trialling for another Black Fern cap, as she had a young family, she had gone far enough.
"Everyone needs help to achieve — otherwise it is just so much harder."
In 2015 she went to a rugby referees meeting, seeing refereeing as an opportunity for women to make their mark. "I had a young family, two young girls, and I just wanted to stay in the game. I wanted another challenge for myself," she said.
Since then Rebecca has officiated sevens at the Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup Sevens, taken charge of one test match and two Farah Palmer Cup finals.
Refereeing took its physical toll, Rebecca suffering 13 calf muscle tears in three years and forcing her to reassess her future at the start of 2018. She decided to push on with her dream, building up her fitness and adopting a strict health diet. The result has been a stellar year.
In January Rebecca officiated in the Sydney Sevens, refereeing the playoff for fifth and sixth.
In February she became one of two women selected for the elite New Zealand Rugby's high performance referees' national squad.
She has also refereed internationally in Vancouver, Canada and Japan and officiated at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast in Australia.
In July Rebecca refereed at the World Rugby Sevens in San Francisco.
In September Rebecca became the first New Zealand female referee to officiate a first class men's fixture when she controlled the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship match between Thames Valley and King Country.
In November she refereed two international women's matches — Ireland V USA in Dublin and Canada v Wales in Cardiff.
In December she has been nominated for Referee of the Year at the NZ Rugby Awards.
Rebecca admits she is one who "likes to tick boxes". She admits her mum and dad have been huge in her efforts to achieve.
"Everyone needs help to achieve — otherwise it is just so much harder," she said at the Get The Girls Out celebration on Thursday evening at Farm Source in Dannevirke.
Her husband is also very supportive. Together they raise 22,000 lambs for milking and she says her refereeing interest is "head-space medicine".
Rebecca has been part of so many developments in women's rugby both as a player and referee. She was nominated in 2006 as New Zealand Women's Rugby Player of the Year.
It is fitting in Women's Suffrage Year that she should be nominated for Referee of the Year.