Rebecca Mahoney and Natarsha Ganley have become the first women selected into New Zealand Rugby’s high-performance referee’s national squad.

Mahoney enjoyed a stellar career as a Black Ferns player, appearing in two successful Women’s Rugby World Cup campaigns in 2006 and 2010 and winning 16 caps, before picking up the whistle, while Northland native Ganley has been refereeing since her teens and has gained a wealth of international experience in a short space of time.

A fly-half in her playing days, Mahoney already enjoyed notoriety as the first female to referee a first-class men’s game in New Zealand within a couple of years of stepping into her new role, aged 32.

New Zealand Rugby’s High Performance Referee Manager Bryce Lawrence welcomed the inclusion of Mahoney and Ganley as a positive statement about women in refereeing.

“This is a fantastic day for refereeing and for women in refereeing. Rebecca and Natarsha are quality referees and will no doubt continue to improve in the high-performance environment,” said Lawrence.

“We are determined to have the best match officials in the world who control elite level games. Having Rebecca and Natarsha in the national squad will see us developing our top men and women officials together to achieve that goal.

“The growth of the women’s game around the world has meant that rugby unions around the world are thinking about how we can encourage and support women and girls, into refereeing.

“Bringing the best of our male and female referees into one programme, gives others something to aim for, and it ensures that we stay relevant to our rugby communities and audience.”