Jackson Henshaw is taking his refereeing career to the national stage. He chats to Kayla Hodge about becoming a referee and his New Zealand high performance squad selection.
Q Where are you from, Jackson?
I grew up, and went to primary and high school, in Waimate.
Q Where are you based now?
I moved to Glenavy 10 years ago and I am running a dairy farm with my wife. We have two young kids.
Q Tell me about your initial involvement with rugby.
I started playing rugby when I was 7 for Waimate JAB – my very first game of tackle rugby was against Kurow. I continued playing for Waimate until I moved to Christchurch for a building course, and played a season for Sydenham Colts. Then, I returned to Waimate, playing about 60-odd games in the senior grade. After that I pursued rugby as a referee.
Q Why did you make the switch to refereeing?
I started refereeing in 2018, starting in the younger grades and then moved into senior rugby after two years. I decided to make the change to refereeing from playing because playing was getting more physically demanding.
I still had great passion for rugby so this was a way I could still be involved and give back to a good community sport.
Another reason I decided to give it a go was the shortage of referees in our area. Once I said I was no longer playing I was quickly approached by the South Canterbury Rugby Referees Association (SCRRA) and Waimate Rugby Club to see if refereeing would be of interest to me.
My father, Paul, had also been a first class referee, so his guidance and coaching has been a positive influence on my decision to ref.
Q Tell me about your refereeing career so far.
I’m in my fourth season now and I’m enjoying refereeing the local South Canterbury competition. I refereed Crusaders B v Highlanders B at the start of the season, for which I was appointed by New Zealand Rugby. This game led to me being selected in New Zealand Rugby’s 2021 high performance referee squad.
Q What does it mean to you to be selected?
I’m very honoured that I was given the opportunity to be part of the squad. It means a lot to me and I’m thankful to everyone who has played a part in helping me reach this goal, especially the SCRRA and my the continued support from family and friends.
Q What does being in the squad involve?
I will get the opportunity to official the Farah Palmer Cup and Heartland competitions.
We attend Zoom meetings together as a squad regularly and have a national mentor, or a professional referee, to keep us moving forward and working to become better at what we do.
Q Any long term goals?
Continue to upskill as a referee and maintain my selection in the high performance squad.
Q Is there anything that’s surprised you since swapping the boots for the whistle?
Being a referee isn’t as individual as I first imagined. We have regular meetings with our association, and each referee has a coach or mentor to guide and advise us on how to improve our skills, physical and mental fitness.
I have met some great people through refereeing who I now call friends. It’s great to have a network to talk about rugby, from a referee point of view.
Q What do you enjoy about refereeing?
I always enjoyed rugby as a sport and I like keeping fit, so refereeing is a way I can combine both at the same time. It keeps me involved with rugby but I don’t have the worry of the physical contact that comes with playing the game.
Q What advice would you give to those considering taking up the whistle?
Just to get out there and give it a go. The SCRRA are always super supportive of anyone who would like to join our association and become a referee.
We can’t enjoy the game of rugby we all love without referees, so if you’re interested you can get in touch with Tristram Johnston via email (email@example.com) and he can provide you with information on how to get started.