The dual international bolstering Victoria's refereeing ranks

Wed, Jan 25, 2023, 4:15 AM
Rugby Vic Media
by Rugby Vic Media
Christina Ovenden (right) presented with her Victorian refereeing jersey
Christina Ovenden (right) presented with her Victorian refereeing jersey

Keep your eyes peeled and you may just spot a Scottish rugby international gracing the suburban fields of Victoria most Saturdays.

Christina Ovenden, a capped international player who also appeared for England in a rugby league test match, now gets her weekly step count up with a whistle in hand overseeing Victorian rugby matches.

We caught up with the dual international to hear her remarkable story.

Rugby Victoria (RV): We understand you had a prolific playing career before you got into refereeing. Spill the beans!

Christina Ovenden (CO): I started playing in NZ with the University of Otago and Otago provence, where I actually had Helen Littleworth as my first captain (who was captain of the Black Ferns and then Farah Palmer). 

I had one Black Fern trial (that went awfully), before moving up to Wellington where I played Wellington NPC for three years. 

I later moved to the UK, played for Scotland for three years (2004-2006) including three Six Nations campaigns, a European Cup in Toulouse, a Pacific Cup in Ottawa and then the World Cup in Edmonton. In total I earned 25 caps.

Then, I played rugby league for England in 2007 for one match against France. I also was a player / coach for a club in Sweden (Enkoping) for a season. 

I've also been a physio for Nomads (international Barbarian team) on their 2008 tour to South Africa and then player/physio for a 2012 tour to South Africa.  I also had a stint playing for Susies Saloon (a pub in Amderstam) in the Amsterdam and Copenhagen 7s.

RV: So where did the motivation to get into refereeing come from?

CO: I had coached and been a physio for rugby teams and enjoyed pushing the limit of the rules so thought it would be interesting to referee them. It's been a great way to remain involved in the game and make my experience as a player still relevant.

RV: What do you recall of your first game as a referee? What was the most difficult thing you hadn't considered?

CO: It was an under 14s game and I just remember looking up at most of them! I had to try to put my coaching and physio hats to the side and just be their referee - not standing in their back line as a centre.

RV: Tell us about the preparation you personally go through leading into a match.

CO: Making sure the body can cope with running around and changing direction, I have a few old niggles that I have to manage. 

I try to look up the weather report - although in Melbourne its more of a guide with 4 seasons in one day! I look up where I'm supposed to be going because the clubs here are new to me. 

I'll often watch some rugby on TV the night before and listen to what other referees are saying. Sometimes I'll look back at some scores of the teams I'm going to be reffing too so I'm familiar with their history.

RV: Who has helped you most along your refereeing journey? What role have they played in keeping you motivated?

CO: The VRRA has been so supportive, providing such a range of experience and knowledge. 

They offer such good planning and a learning structure whilst being so approachable.  In particular, Mel Nash and Marika Vertzonis have been so welcoming and directing me to where I should be and what to expect to happen. 

Initially Brett Waterman got me training regularly and meeting other refs; I miss him. 

Amber McLachlan is awesome to watch and learn from.  Being able to watch other ref's on their journeys and what they want to get out of it is helpful.

RV: What do you enjoy most about being a referee?

CO: I'd have to say watching two teams play hard for whole match and knowing I've done my best to make the game safe and fun for them to play.

RV: Thanks for sharing your story and giving your time to rugby in Victoria.

Thought about picking up the whistle? Our refs have begun preseason too! Join them Monday nights from 6:30pm at Noel Clarke Field, Aughtie Drive.

For more info, visit or follow Victorian Rugby-Referees on instagram.


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