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Whistle . . . St Kevin's College pupil Jess Crossley (14) has been selected to referee at the New Zealand Secondary School tournament in Rotorua next month. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Jess Crossley whistles when she’s happy.

Literally – the St Kevin’s College pupil loves refereeing touch rugby.

Her passion has led to her selection to officiate at next month’s New Zealand Secondary School touch tournament.

It will be Jess’ second year at the event and she said she was excited to have the opportunity to test herself nationally again.

“Last year was such a good experience, so I’m really glad to go again,” she said.

“The environment’s so cool, you all go up together and you meet lots of new people doing it too.”

Jess (14) did not yet know what age groups she would referee this year. Last year, she refereed a fifth and sixth place under-16 mixed final and an under-18 boys match.

“Boys’ games are more challenging – you have to be more focused on the game, and it’s a big fitness test.”

Deciding the outcome of the game could be tricky, but having a strong support system made all the difference, she said.

“If people argue with you, you know there’s a whole bunch of people behind you that have got your back.”

On her road to nationals, the level one referee worked with Otago Touch provincial director of referees Alex Buttery and refereed at regional tournaments, junior nationals, masters events and Otago trials.

Attending the national tournaments would extend her game, develop her whistle tone and fitness and help her progress through the ranks to being a level four referee in the future.

Playing netball, basketball, rugby and taking up swimming helped keep her fitness level up.

She first took up refereeing at Pembroke Primary School when she was asked to fill in after one of her own games, and conceded she had had no idea what she was doing.

From there, she was hooked and by the time she reached intermediate, she stopped playing altogether to focus on refereeing.

She was determined to work hard and wanted to take her craft as far as she could.

“I haven’t reffed anything for New Zealand.

“I’m hoping to ref at an international level; a transtasman match between New Zealand and Australia would be really cool.”

North Otago’s Quinn Burge and Shania Noble were also selected to referee at the tournament.