Thanks to our friend Joy Neville for her blog leading up to the Women's Rugby World Cup 2017.
Joy Neville - 90 Irish caps & World Rugby Referee
70 caps for Ireland (15’s) playing for 11 years
20 caps for Irish 7’s
Played in 2 World Cups
Captained my country
Won the Triple crown and Grand Slam in 2013
I was an International player who never even contemplated refereeing. I decided to retire because I devoted 11 years of commitment to playing for my country and if I could change anything, I wouldn’t, the best days of my life shared with wonderful people and some of which are still my best friends.
In life, your priorities change for whatever reason, my reason? The love of my life. That and the emptiness in training which I once adored and if I am not enjoying the training, I won’t be the right person on the pitch for my team mates around me. It also didn’t help that my body took 4 days to recover after a physical battle (Old Age! J )
The pinnacle of my career took place in 2013 when in my mind, the Impossible became reality. When in the infancy of my career, excited when we scored a single try against the force of the English who put 80 odd points on the board. At a time when funding was nearly non-existent, sharing floor space with the girls from the North/Dublin when training in Limerick and them returning the favour when training on their home turf. Did I ever think we would be Grand slam winners? Honestly? No.
I still pinch myself sometimes. We did it. Wonderful memories that no medal/trophy could ever top. Holding that trophy, in that moment of time, truthfully, no words could describe the feeling. In my mind, I was done and happy to hang up my boots. Create new wonderful memories with my now wife and begin a new exciting chapter, little did I think, this new chapter would include running the line in the EPCR competition or not alone playing in 2 world cups but refereeing in another!
5 International caps
11 International 7’s caps
First Women to referee in All Ireland League 1A
First Women in the world to officiate in European Challenge Cup (EPCR)
First Women from Ireland to referee in the WSWS (World Sevens Women’s Series)
First female on the PRO 12 Development squad
Selected to referee in the Women’s World Cup 2017
Just retired, plan was to spend time with my loved ones. Go to family events that I could never attend in the past. Most events clashed with training/matches, go skiing which 6 Nations prevented! Get drunk, actually, that never stopped me before!!!! So that’s what I did for 3 months before I received a phone call from a gentleman named David McHugh, a former International referee (now IRFU referee manager). It wasn’t long before he got to the point, he wanted to meet up to discuss the opportunities involved with refereeing. I was very hesitant, but Mr. McHugh had the powers of persuasion down to a fine art. I agreed, little did I know what I was getting myself into.
Long did I contemplate this new possible venture but first port of call, ring a man who was well respected high up within the rugby circles for an answer to one question? I made that call and I asked Mr. X, if I take on this new challenge I want to know one thing: “In your eyes, do you think it is possible for a woman to referee in a Division 1A All Ireland Men’s league game?” The answer I received: “Joy, not in my lifetime!” That was the moment I decided, I’m in, I have my challenge and I’ll bloody well try my best to prove him wrong and anyone else that way inclined. I refereed my first AIL Division 1A Men’s match last October 2016 and ironically out of everything that I have achieved as a referee, this still has to be my proudest moment.
Now, only a few weeks running into the Women’s Rugby World cup kicking off and how excited am I! I do not and will never forget the wonderful people within the Munster Association of Referees and those within the IRFU who guided and supported me no end (ye know who you are). I would not be here without your guidance, input and friendship. So here’s to an exciting, skillful and speedy Women’s World cup 2017 in good old Eire! The very best of luck to all the teams involved and of course to my team, my fellow officials.