The Aussie found her groove in time for Tokyo


THE PLAN for referee Amy Perrett was to prioritise the Olympic Games in Tokyo, and not spread herself too thin trying to be at the top of her game in XVs at the same time. Then Covid blew all Sevens World Series plans to smithereens.

But while life was handing out lemons, Australia got the meringues and Perrett enjoyed an unexpected boost as elite rugby powered on Down Under.

“I’ve been given opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise, with Super Rugby in Australia,” Perrett tells Rugby World. With cross-border competitions off, she was able to referee in the men’s Super Rugby AU. She continues: “I’m really grateful and I guess one of the mantras I’ve been living with is, ‘Take whatever opportunities are available’.

“Leading into Tokyo, I made the decision that I should just focus on sevens, hopefully to do one of the medal matches. I found with going between the two (codes) at the last Olympics, I wasn’t happy I was hitting where I wanted to be. And I probably had unrealistic expectations of myself.”

Perrett brings lessons to bear when she makes decisions on her future. She talks candidly of coming out of the Rio Games in 2016, from focusing on that event with “tunnel vision”. After it, she couldn’t foresee any opportunities refereeing in men’s XVs. She had some time off to have a child, and realised being open-minded about next steps was a worthy trait. And seeing others blaze trails strengthened her resolve.

Amy Perrett

Joy Neville refereeing in the Pro14 (Getty Images)

“I put a bit of a different perspective on things,” Perrett says. “About not having that tunnel vision or to just achieve one thing but broaden my horizons, to say just because I haven’t seen someone else do it before, doesn’t mean I can’t. And then when I had my time off, seeing (fellow ref) Joy Neville do so many amazing things in the men’s game, it was like, ‘This could work if we’ve got the right people in place’.”

Perrett and Neville have spoken of the pressures that come with being female referees in the men’s game, and the Australian is certain a byproduct of their success could be changed perceptions.

In the world of Trans-Tasman Super Rugby, Perrett is clearly enthused by the prospect of whistling Kiwi men’s teams. Then there’s a busy schedule, with the Sevens Series restarting post-Olympics and then a World Cup in the future.

But the Games is the big one. Should the Aussie women repeat their success of 2016, Perrett won’t get the chance to oversee a gold medal match – with a textbook answer, she says she didn’t mind because the last gold was such a boost for the sport in a country where rugby has so many market competitors. But hey, it would be incredible to oversee that match this time.

And amid the talk of pressure, she relaxes into the approach she has discovered, while focusing on one version of rugby at a time: “It’s just about enjoying myself – because that’s when I referee the best.”

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