Young ref happy to call the shots

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - JAMES PAUL

Two high­lights stand out in young Dal­las McKnight’s mind through­out her five-year ref­er­ee­ing ca­reer.

One is pe­nal­is­ing her older brother dur­ing her de­but sec­ondary school rugby match last year.

The other is play­ing wa­ter girl to one of the world’s top ref­er­ees, Jaco Peyper, at the All Blacks and Wales 2016 test match in Welling­ton.

That sec­ond proud mo­ment also kicked off a spe­cial con­nec­tion be­tween the South African rugby ref and the 13-yearold from the Kapiti Coast.

Over­all, there are 126 ac­tive ref­er­ees in the Welling­ton re­gion, and Dal­las is one of just four fe­males.

But she has all the weight of Peyper’s ex­pe­ri­ence on her side. Af­ter he fin­ished his whis­tle du­ties in the first Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions test in Auck­land on Satur­day, he sat down with Dal­las on Tues­day. When­ever he’s in the coun­try, he catches up with the year nine Kapiti Col­lege stu­dent.

‘‘She loves him, she looks up to Jaco, he is her ref­eree idol,’’ mum Ja­nine said.

‘‘And I think Jaco is taken with Dal­las, he is re­ally fond of her. I just re­ceived an email from him ac­tu­ally, ask­ing how her rep­re­sen­ta­tive tri­als went.’’

Peyper is bound by in­ter­na­tional rugby rules and is not al­lowed to speak to me­dia dur­ing the Lions tour. But Ja­nine said that, when the pair met on Tues­day, they went over ref­er­ee­ing pro­to­cols, and Peyper ex­plained new GPS track­ing sys­tems be­ing used in to­day’s games.

‘‘They sat down and had a re­ally good ses­sion to­gether, and he showed Dal­las what she could be in store for in years to come.’’

Dal­las is quite clear about what the fu­ture holds. ‘‘To be the best, I have to just keep ref­er­ee­ing as I get older, and just do more and more games.’’

Dal­las plays half­back in her un­der-15 Kapiti Col­lege girls’ rugby team, and Peyper told her that, if he wasn’t busy, he would have ref­er­eed the team’s fi­nal against Rahui Kura on June 28, which they won 26-10 to take out the U-15 girls grade.

Dal­las is also on the radar of Welling­ton Rugby Union’s first fe­male board mem­ber, Izzy Ford.

Ref­er­ees were a male­dom­i­nated role back when the for­mer Black Fern, and now Porirua deputy mayor, rep­re­sented New Zealand. But she said the women’s game was grow­ing, for both play­ers and of­fi­cials.

‘‘There is a step up, largely due to our na­tional women’s sevens team, for ex­am­ple, and the St Mary’s Col­lege sevens team who rep­re­sented New Zealand at the Sanix World Youth Cup in Ja­pan.’’

PHOTO: JAMES PAUL/FAIR­FAX NZ

She might be small but 13-year-old Dal­las McKnight isn’t to be ques­tioned when of­fi­ci­at­ing a rugby game.

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Ref­eree Jaco Peyper has taken a sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est in Dal­las since she as­sisted him dur­ing a 2016 test match.

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