Two BOP referees in elite squad
New Zealand Rugby has announced the 2021 High Performance Referee Squad for this season, including two officials from the Bay of Plenty.
The referees on the list will officiate all national competitions, including the Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa season.
Nick Briant and Tiana Ngawati are the two referees from the BOP area who have been selected.
"We're really happy with how this year's squad has shaped up and how the referees have been preparing for what we all expect to be a physically testing year,” says NZR high performance referee manager Bryce Lawrence.
The National Selectors have named 24 referees for this year's squad and have chosen to keep up to five places free to be filled before national competitions kick off.
"Rugby is always evolving, and judging by the early stages of Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa, and the impact the new law innovations being trialled at that level, we are going to see quicker rugby than ever before in 2021.
“The referee squad have been training hard in pre-season with this in mind, really challenging themselves aerobically to make sure they are in the right shape to cover the yards on matchday."
Sky Super Aotearoa's trial law innovations have not been confirmed for other national competitions, but Lawrence said rugby was getting faster every year and referees were preparing themselves accordingly.
"The squad knocked out some record pre-season training times this year, with the best BRONCO fitness test time during pre-season coming in at four-minutes 20 seconds, which I daresay a lot of the players would be happy with,” says Lawrence.
“It was collectively verbalised last season that the first edition of the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition and the intensity of all the national competitions were incredibly tough for the players and referees, and I expect that it's going to be raised to another level again this year.
"The squad are prepared and ready for this and excited by the challenges ahead.”
Missing from the 2021 squad are four long-standing squad members in Richard Kelly (Taranaki), Rebecca Mahoney (Wairarapa Bush), James Munro (Canterbury) and Hugh Reed (Hawkes Bay), who have all retired.
Lawrence congratulated those selected and thanked the recent retirees for their outstanding service to rugby.
The full 2021 national High Performance Referee Squad is:
Paul Williams (Taranaki), Ben O’Keeffe (Auckland), Brendon Pickerill (North Harbour), James Doleman (Otago), Mike Fraser (Wellington), Nick Briant (BOP), Cam Stone (Taranaki), Dan Waenga (Hawkes Bay), Tipene Cottrell (Hawkes Bay), Jono Bredin (Otago), Angus Mabey (Auckland), Brittany Andrew (Manawatu) ,Tiana Ngawati (BOP), Maggie Cogger-Orr (Auckland), Lauren Jenner (Counties), Larissa Collingwood (Waikato), Mike Winter (Waikato), Nick Hogan (Hawkes Bay), Chris Paul (Sth Canterbury), Daniel Moore (Canterbury), George Haswell (Canterbury), Stuart Curran (Manawatu), Marcus Playle (Auckland), Selica Winiata (Manawatu).