Refereeing 3 years now, we caught up Fiona Mallen recently.
What made you decide to take up the whistle?
I played womens rugby for about 7 years. In our leagues we found it difficult to secure quality referees for our games. I decided that there is no point complaining about it especially since there were so few female referees. So I decided to give refereeing a go.
What is the biggest thing you have learned since you started out?
I have learned that I am stronger than I think. I was put way out of my comfort zone refereeing. It’s in those moments were you learn a lot about yourself as a person. My skills refereeing have definitely given me confidence and resilience in other areas of my life. Whenever I am in an uncomfortable or stressful situation I tell myself that if I can referee 30 odd burly rugby men for 80 mins then I can do this.
What was the process like to become a referee?
It’s a straight forward enough process. You do a full course day and at then you are put under the guidance of an area rep. I started refereeing underage matches. Once a month there are area workshops about 2 hours long. After about 6 months I got a trial match and passed it to become a Leinster branch referee.
What is your training regime like?
Im in the gym twice a week, I go for a run or sprint work once or twice a week.
What is your favourite thing about refereeing?
There is a great buzz you get when you are pushed out of your comfort zone and you come off the pitch knowing that you facilitated a great game.
What is the most memorable game you have refereed so far?
I refereed an u18 girls interprovincial match between Leinster and Ulster. I’m not sure it was my finest performance but it was a great occasion and one I was very proud to be part of.
What is your pre – match routine like?
I always like to have my gear ready the night before. The morning of the match I have a good breakfast and focus on hydrating as well as I can. On the drive to the match I try to visualise scenarios from kickoffs and set pieces.
I have a notebook where I have written down key areas of focus on the pitch and the key laws. It contains notes from workshops and also post match notes. If I get something wrong, it gets written in the notebook. I always have a read through that pre game.
What are your refereeing aspirations?
I would really love to get involved in the international women’s game. That will take a lot of hard work and talent and I might not ever make it. Fortunately I love being pushed out of my depth and given a new challenge. Every match you referee from underage to J1 presents its own challenges. You can never rest on your laurels.
What one law would you like to change or introduce?
I don’t really think about laws like that. My job is to buy into the philosophy behind the law and ensure that its implemented to the best of my ability.
Who is your idol or favourite referee and why?
Joy Neville. I got to work with her as a Touch Judge in an AIL match this year. Her attitude to refereeing is great. She works hard before, during and at down time to ensure a good game. She certainly does not rest on her incredible achievements. I really buy into that attitude and philosophy when it comes to refereeing.
What will make you improve as a referee?
Every game you have gives you a new challenge/scenario to deal with. Each match helps me improve. Talking things through with other experienced referees is always helpful.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about taking up refereeing?
If you are thinking about it just do it. People worry a lot about the grief referees get. What they don’t see is the satisfaction when particularly a losing player shakes your hand and tells you that you that you facilitated a great game.
Do you any self-analysis after games?
Always. I could replay matches and parts of matches over and over in my head. Particularly if I think I got something wrong. I’m my own worst critic. I always write the scenarios down in my notebook. I always look up relevant laws and often have a chat with other referees to help me make things clear in my own mind.