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Rochelle Tamarua is taking on a new challenge after being selected as part of the NRLW match official group for this season, beginning as the touch judge in two matches in the opening round this weekend.
Rochelle has spent this season as a lead referee in the SAS Fox Memorial Premiership, while also taking on tournaments in New Zealand and Australia that have helped her journey continue through into the NRLW, fulfilling a lifetime goal.
“It’s been a lifetime goal, precisely a 10-year goal that I had set for myself. Unfortunately, seven years ago I had to give up refereeing”, Rochelle said.
A proud Cook Islander, Rochelle grew up in central Auckland where her refereeing journey began at just ten years of age in touch Rochelle moved over to the rugby league scene after getting a taste during her time at Auckland Girls’ Grammar and never looked back.
“In 2012, I took up the whistle in my first rugby league game which was the U13 Papatoetoe Panthers after refereeing touch football. That was my first memory and I eventually moved up through the ranks.”
Rochelle became the first female referee in the Fox Memorial Premiership, which would be the start of her paving the way for female referees in the Auckland system.
“In three to four years, I was running Holden Cup lines, was given the opportunity to referee the Jillaroos vs Kiwis and the NRL Nines.”
While the exposure and experience to the international game was ground-breaking, it became too much while trying to manage life off the field.
“I owned my own restaurant, was working full time, travelling back and forth between Australia and New Zealand, training with the NRL and refereeing games on the weekend. It was quite full on, and I had to step back and get some rest, so that’s what I did.”
“I came back in 2017 and I worked from scratch. It has been a tough ride, a lot of setbacks, a lot of disappointments, a lot of moments where I felt that getting to stage wouldn’t be possible. Last year, obviously we went through COVID, that was the hardest mentally. The light at the end of the tunnel and my hopes and dreams to become an official in the NRL or NRLW became smaller.”
In 2019, Rochelle joined Auckland Rugby League as an Administration Officer moving to utilise her knowledge and experience to develop the refereeing programmes and pathways in Auckland as the Referees Development Officer.
This year has been huge for Rochelle as she has excelled throughout ARL and NZRL competitions earning chances to head over to Australia and impress in front of Tony Archer and Jared Maxwell.
“I went over to Australia in March to referee the Women’s National Competition and that went very well. I refereed the Women’s final where we had Jared Maxwell and Tony Archer, who are the big bosses for the NRL. They physically came and saw my performance, which they were quite happy with and offered, no, demanded that I’d be there two weeks later to referee at the Australian schoolboys.”
At Australian Schoolboys, Rochelle exceeded her expectations, taking the tournament to be a sponge and absorb what she could from the experience. Rochelle again impressed and earnt herself the U15 final, getting her foot back in the door for the NRL and NRLW competitions.
“Last week, I went to the NRL to train with them. It was a big eye-opening experience being amongst that group of elite officials again, training vigorously and taking the job seriously.”
It was there that Rochelle earnt herself the spot in the NRLW and paved the way for other referees to follow in her footsteps. Rochelle spoke on her tough journey, how it felt to get the appointment and a message for other referees coming up through the ranks.
“It’s a huge feeling, it’s still sinking in. I don’t think I have had time to completely take it all in because I’ve had a lot of homework to do with how things are run and their processes. That’s how I currently feel, overwhelmed, but very happy.”
“Persistence pays off, if you really, really feel that you need to do something in life and want to go and get it, it will come. My message to any young female that aspires to be a referee in rugby league or want to take it further is to believe that you belong, just give it a crack. You’ll get there.”
In the opening round, Rochelle has been appointed as the touch judge for the Roosters v Eels on Saturday and Dragons v Titans on Sunday. Rochelle’s sister, Crystal, currently plays in the NRLW for the Brisbane Broncos.
Article added: Friday 19 August 2022
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