"Crazy really isn't it... not a clue and here I'm reffing a WC final when i tried so hard to make a final as a player ... crazy"
Having never made a World Cup Final as a player, Joy Neville never thought she would never be involved in the premier women's tournament again. However, her love for the game has seen her come full circle and this weekend she will referee the final of the 2017 Women's World Cup.
This 2-part blog details her rise through the ranks to become the top women's ref in the world. Part 1 is a letter she wrote on her retirement from the game.
Today I announce my retirement to a sport that has given me endless challenges, great entertainment, sweat, blood, tears, laughter and amazing memories. I have many happy memories throughout the past decade wearing this very special Irish jersey. I have experienced many highs and lows, celebrations and amazing achievements none more memorable than our latest grand slam victory which was 11 year in the making.
Throughout my years involved with the Irish team I can categorically state that I would not have had dedicated the last decade of my life only for those whom I had the pleasure to play alongside and share this amazing green Jersey with over the years. I always said that I would not have persisted or stayed involved for so long only for those individuals who turned all the hard slog, blood and tears into fun, laughter and great friendships. Before I began my career with the Irish Women’s Rugby team, I had wonderful parents and four amazing brothers. Now leaving the sport I am very overwhelmed and feel extremely lucky in stating that I still have wonderful parents and four amazing brothers but NOW 11 years later I have also gained some sisters. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone and most importantly past players who laid the foundation. All who fought for the Women’s team through thick and thin which provided us with our strong platform that we currently attain. I would also like to thank the current players who I have shared so many mixed emotions with, all the management, medical staff, my wonderful family who were always there to support me both on and off the pitch, my friends who always understood when I could not celebrate their big moments, our wonderful supporters who always stuck in there with the Irish team through good times and hard times (God knows we had a lot of hard times). I would also like to thank all the parents and family of my team mates for the years of committed support. Finally, not forgetting the gaffers who have worked so hard to improve performance/skill and mental strength!!!!! I cannot leave this sport that has given me so much pleasure over the years without mentioning my three pals Fi, Lynny and Goosie. What can I say guys it’s been a hell of a Journey but we got there. I wouldn’t have done it without you. While it will take some time to adjust to my new role in the squad as a supporter I would like to wish you all the very best of luck in the coming years. Testament to all players who have been involved since the very start of Irish Women’s Rugby.
So many countries have commented on the great camaraderie, moral and craic that the Irish women’s side betrays. I have been proud to be associated with a team that has maintained such a wonderful reputation. I hope I will look on in 10 years' time and see a vibrant and healthy women's Rugby Scene, with the ultimate of Irish Women’s Rugby becoming professional. And as I check out, that 18-year-old has a basket of T-shirts, Jersey’s and lots of boots JA collection that brings the biggest smile to her face. I look forward to the exciting next chapter of my life and I thank you all for your support during the last one. A trophy carries dust. Memories last forever!
Thank you all so much, Joy"
In part 2, Joy details her rise to the top of world rugby...