Fiji rugby's refereeing ranks reinforced by steely schoolgirl

14 May 2018

Photo and story: Aaron Kearney - ABC

It is one of the toughest and most thankless jobs in Pacific sport but a schoolgirl with a soft voice and an iron will has emerged as a rising star of rugby union's refereeing ranks.

As Temaleti Bulanavanua wanders into the schoolyard amid the sea of blue uniforms, the softly-spoken schoolgirl looks just like any other.

But when this 15-year-old dons the red, white and blue of an official referee's uniform and clutches her whistle, she transforms.

Suddenly, she is ready to take on arguably the toughest job in Pacific sport.

"I want to be the boss so I can teach them some lessons," she says, only half joking.

In a country obsessed by rugby, and a culture that has traditionally excluded women from the game, the magnitude of her achievements, and her courage, is breathtaking.

World Rugby's Australian aid-supported Get Into Rugby program is supporting to weave women, and respect for officials, into the future of the game and its culture.

Read more about her story at ABC: Fiji rugby's refereeing ranks reinforced by steely schoolgirl

Girl blowing a whistle on a sporting field

Tema transforms when she takes the whistle.

Image: ABC - Aaron Kearney

Last Updated: 14 May 2018