Kiwi wildlife worker blows RWC whistle
05 Aug 2010
A Kiwi wildlife worker is about to leave her daily routine of tending endangered species, to line up in London as New Zealand’s only whistle-blower at the Women’s Rugby World Cup.
In just under two weeks, Nicky Inwood - who works at the Orana Wildlife Park in the South Island city of Christchurch - will referee a match between France and Sweden on the opening day of the rugby tournament.
Inwood is not only New Zealand’s sole referee at the event but is also the first woman to ever referee a women’s rugby international. She is also the only New Zealand woman to have refereed a game on the hallowed turf of Twickenham.
And when the upcoming tournament kicks off, Nicky Inwood will become the first woman to have refereed at three World Cups.
Inwood will be swapping her daily routine of hand-feeding giraffes and informing Orana Park visitors about the plight of endangered wildlife but becoming a volunteer rugby referee is fulfilling her other passions - rugby and representing New Zealand.
The upcoming event is the fourth World Cup that Inwood has attended. She was at the first ever global tournament as a player in 1991, and then refereed at the 2002 and 2006 events.
"I am involved in refereeing because I love the game of rugby and it is a huge honour to represent New Zealand," Inwood says.
The role requires some intense training with a rigorous, early morning workout five-days-a-week before she starts work at the wildlife park.
Women's Rugby World Cup
The 2010 Women’s Rugby World Cup is being held in London at the Surrey Sports Centre.
Nicky is guaranteed one game as a referee and one as an assistant referee. More games will be offered based upon her performances in the early stages of the event.
"Just like the players, I get knocked-out if I don’t perform. But, as a passionate New Zealander, I hope I cannot referee the final as it would be great to see the Black Ferns get through to that stage" says Inwood.
As well as reaching top level in refereeing, Inwood has also earned 11 test caps playing as front row hooker.
She has refereed 13 test matches, and has amassed 46 first-class games as a whistle blower.
Inwood, who has been refereeing for the past 11 seasons in the New Zealand regions of Wanganui, Waikato and Canterbury, says she was introduced to the role by accident.
"I went to watch a friend play and the referee never turned up. I said I’d give it a go and as it happened an assessor was at the game as he was supposed to examine the performance of the absent ref. He said I did a good job and asked if I wanted to do it again," says Inwood.
As an amateur referee, she must balance her refereeing with a full-time occupation.
"I have a wonderful job working as a visitor services co-ordinator at Orana Wildlife Park. The role includes overseeing and managing the park’s volunteer programme, monitoring behind the scenes tours and appraising presentations to the public. It is the perfect balance for running around a rugby field," she says.
The Black Ferns
The Black Ferns - New Zealand's women’s rugby team - are the current Rugby World Cup champions, having won three consecutive world cups in 1998, 2002 (Barcelona) and 2006 (Edmonton, Canada).
The sixth Women’s Rugby World Cup will be played in England, from 20 August to 5 September, and 12 teams will compete.
Background: Orana Wildlife Park
Set on 80 hectares of park-like grounds, Orana Wildlife Park - near Christchurch - is New Zealand's only open range zoo. It offers a range of exciting animal encounters on a daily basis.
The park is an open range sanctuary for endangered animals. Over 400 animals from 70 different species live in enclosures that are as close as possible to their natural habitat.
Conservation is one of the park's core missions, and the name Orana is the Maori word for welcome or place of refuge. Orana Wildlife Park is internationally recognised for its involvement in captive breeding programmes for endangered exotic animals, as well as New Zealand's own rare fauna.
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