To be a female referee or a touch judge, in a male dominated sport in the country requires courage and a personality built on thick skin and bravery.
Fiji Rugby Referee Association female match official Mere Uluinaceva has surpassed many phases that even male match officials hasn’t achieved.
The Kadavu lass believes that women have the equal opportunity as men in any given field and she has proven herself in the rugby field.
“Firstly, it’s a male dominant sport. Fitness, speed and taking care of diet is one very important part of the body. Refereeing male game is dealing with fitness and speed.
Secondly, the spectators who always say that “WOMENS PLACE IS IN THE KITCHEN”. I always ignore what they say because I know that I can also do what my other male referees can do in a rugby match,” said Uluinaceva.
Like any other sports, many dream of playing and even representing Fiji but Uluinaceva hardwork speaks the volume and signifies that officiating a rugby match is also an option for women.
“Few years back I use to play rugby and got injured, but I still go and watch rugby games. Afriend of mine whom we use to play together was already a referee.
So she (Kuini vuli) encouraged me to pursue a career in this, and that was a turning point for me because I knew that I will still be attached to rugby,” she added.
Uluinaceva revealed that being a rugby match official has opened a new chapter of her life and she believes that any young female is capable of achieving the same.
“My advice to young girls that all cannot play rugby, but there are other options in the field of rugby such as Refereeing, Coaching, S&C and many more, which can take them to places that they would only dream off,” she said.
“It’s a matter of believing and trusting in ourselves that we can also officiate in rugby just like the men’s and nothing is impossible if the heart is willing.
Rugby in the country has earned the respect of womens rugby and it has set a standard where women will not only target Fijiana jersey but to be a Fijian referee participating in international competitions and even in the Olympics.
Rugby is a game of “Respect” and I feel very proud of myself because I’am refereeing both men’s and women’s game.
“One thing that I have learned in officiating games is that, when we learn to respect the players they will also respect your decision on the field. I’m not a person of socializing but joining the referee has changed my life. I use to be that person who just sit quietly, shy and don’t socialize.
“Being in the environment filled with boys is just an eye opener for me. Saying that I have to get out of that comfort zone and enjoy life. I have really enjoyed every bit of my refereeing journey especially listening to the jokes and the laughter from the boys.
“To young girls out there come along and try out refereeing, if men can do it, women can also do” said Uluinaceva.