In May 2010, at the then Guinness Premiership Final, Saracens fly half Glen Jackson, bowed out of top flight rugby to become a referee. On Saturday he takes charge of the test between England and Fiji at the same Twickenham stadium. Before then at Caerphilly on Wednesday the Combined Service Rugby Referees’ rising star follows a very similar path.
Nikki O’Donnell played for the Royal Air Force at scrum half in the 2010 Inter Service match against the Army at Aldershot. The same year she won her Combined Services cap playing on the wing against the British Police. In those days she wore the colours of the RAF but is now a member of the Queen Alexandra Royal Army Nursing Corps currently based in Birmingham. She has been appointed by the Combined Services Rugby Referees to referee the Combined Services Women when they host the unbeaten Australian Services Warriors side as they seek a Gland Slam end to their 2012 UK tour at Caerphilly.
Nikki has an impressive and varied sporting cv. Her younger life was dedicated to football where she played for Newcastle United WFC and it was not until University, where she studied for a Sports Science degree, that she switched to rugby. In rugby she not only attained Service rugby success but also played for the North East along with her club Darlington Mowden Park Sharks. However she did not leave the world of soccer completely and continued her association with the game in the role of Disability Development Officer for Durham Football Association before becoming an Aircraftwomen in the RAF based at RAF Benson.
Since taking up refereeing her rise through the ranks has been swift. She has already been a reserve official at an England v Wales test match, refereed England v France at U20s level and also refereed in the European Women’s Sevens. Not only talented but also ambitious Nikki has her sights set on the Women’s World Cup in 2014 and possibly the Sevens at RIO in 2016. She acknowledges that they are not going to be easy goals to reach but with her ability, understanding of sport, drive and the support of both the Service and RFU refereeing communities they are achievable.
Nikki’s appointment to the Combined Services Women v Australian Services Warriors match, at Caerphilly on Wednesday 7 November, KO 14:00 is the first for a Service Women Referee. Navy Rugby supporters will also be able to see Nikki referee as she has been appointed to take charge of the opening match in the 2012 U23 Inter Services Championship when the RN U23s host the RAF U23 at Burnaby Road on Friday 16th November. I wish her luck for both games.
The Navy Lark – Navy Rugby Life Members Land New Roles @ RFU
Steve Harland, a former Navy & Combined Services Referee and Life Member of the Royal Navy Rugby Union, has spent the last eleven years with the RFU in the business of referee training. During all this time he has continued to be a great supporter of Navy and Service refereeing and has contributed greatly to the healthy state of affairs in both the CSRR and the RNRURS. In October Steve was rewarded with promotion to Area Training Manager (South West) and now is the RFU manager responsible for referee, coaching and medical services training and development courses.
During his time in the Navy, Steve was awarded his refereeing colours in 1999 and was Referee of the Year in 2004. Not only was Steve a very talented referee who made the National Panel but was also the long term Appointments Secretary for referees in the South West as well as being a regular speaker on the various training courses run by all three Services. Support he has continued since leaving the Service. In 2006 he was appointed to referee the Royal Navy v Barbarians match as part of the Royal Navy Rugby Union’s Centenary celebrations, a fitting closing chapter to his Service refereeing career. The same year , upon leaving the Royal Navy, he was invited to become a Life Member of the RNRU.
At the same time that Steve was getting promoted, another RNRU Life Member Paula Rowe, was joining the RFU as Regional Communications Manager (South West). Paula was Navy Rugby’s Director of Communications, their long term Chair of the Women’s Team and a driving force behind the Women’s game in the Royal Navy. In 2010 on leaving the Service Paula became the first female Life Member of the Union. Paula’s role with the RFU finds her responsible for developing and managing the Communications Strategy for the Community Game.
With the Navy referees having already benefited from access to Steve’s insight and knowledge in his referee development role’s with the RFU, the RNRU now looks set to be able to have access and development support from the top in terms of coaching, medical support and communications. Things are looking up.
Malta 34 Lithuania 17
After the crushing disappointment of last week’s narrow loss away to Croatia; Malta and Navy Prop Kyle Mason were back to winning ways with a comfortable win at home against Lithuania. With the Croatian’s losing away to Switzerland the World Cup Qualifying Group remains open for any of the teams to win through.