NZR President Max Spence said the event celebrated over one hundred years of New Zealand refereeing and acknowledged those who have been involved at the highest level of the game.
“New Zealand has a rich and proud international refereeing history dating back to 1899. Today was a special opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our Test referees and honour their huge contribution to our game.
“Test match rugby is one of the pinnacles for our sport and an immense amount of dedication and sacrifice goes into refereeing at this level. It is always fantastic to see our referees on the international stage and this is another proud day for the refereeing community.”
A total of 86 New Zealand Referees have been appointed to international rugby, from William Garrard in 1899 to the most recent debut by Larissa Woolerton last month.
The capping event was attended by 42 current and former Test referees, with representatives of 12 deceased referees also in attendance to collect the cap on behalf of their loved one.
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said the capping project was a significant recognition of past and present New Zealand Referees.
“On behalf of the rugby community I’d like to recognise our Test referees for their achievements and the vital role they play in our game. There’s a huge sense of pride that comes with receiving your cap and this event acknowledges our referees in the same way as our Test players. New Zealand Referees continue to be incredibly well regarded internationally and we look forward to welcoming more to the Test rugby family in the future.”
New Zealand’s Test Referees include 79 men and 7 women, with Paul Honiss the most capped having been appointed to 46 Test matches.
NZR Head of Training and Education and former Test referee Bryce Lawrence has been a key driver of the project. Lawrence said the event was particularly important for the amateur Test referees.
“About 70 of our 86 referees were involved through the amateur era of rugby and they’ve given up 20 to 30 years of their lives to refereeing simply because they loved the game. The life I’ve had in rugby has treated me well and as more recent referees we’ve been doing this professionally. For me this day is special because I get to see how much it means to those people.”
Each of the referees received a traditional rugby cap from NZR President Max Spence embroidered with the silver fern, New Zealand Referee number and first Test details.
NZR is continuing a search for the remaining next of kin of Test referees so they can receive a Test cap in their loved one’s honour. More information can be found at www.nzrugby.co.nz