Dubai, UAE – November 28, 2018: There’s plenty of excitement building around the men and women preparing to represent Canada at the Emirates Dubai Rugby 7s this weekend. Household names like Justin Douglas and Caroline Crossley are popping up across social media streams and there’s a real buzz in the air ahead of the tournament. But we’re going to take a moment to shine the spotlight on another Canadian out in Dubai this week, and while she won’t be pulling on a Maple Leaf jersey, she is still just as proud to be representing her country.
Vancouver-based referee, Shanda Mosher Gallant, is set to officiate at the Dubai Sevens Invitational, a tournament that runs in parallel to the HSBC World Sevens Series matches this week. Taking place over three days, the tournament hosts dozens of teams across 13 divisions, including elite academies from Ireland, France and South Africa to name a few. We caught up with Shanda before she flew out to the Middle East this week to find out more about what makes this enthusiastic East-Coaster tick.
“What people watch on TV; you’re helping make that happen, which is really cool.
If I can help good rugby happen, I find that really rewarding”
Originally from PEI, Shanda played and refereed rugby in her home Province before moving to BC in September 2017 and has barely taken a breath since. Within a short space of time, she has become a familiar face at rugby fields across the Province be it High School leagues, Age-Grade tournaments, inter-provincial fixtures and Senior championships. This year in particular has seen another whirlwind of appointments, including the Canadian Rugby Championships in Saskatoon, the HSBC Canada Women’s Sevens in Langford, an invitation to referee at the Rugby America’s North (RAN) Sevens in the Bahamas and a spot at the 2018 HSBC Women’s Sevens Series opener at Glendale in Colorado.
As exhausting as all that might seem, Shanda is always on the lookout for the next opportunity to officiate. “My main goal is just to be around more rugby. When you list everything I’ve done recently it can seem a little overwhelming, but I love the sport so much. It’s just great to be on the field helping good rugby happen.” Despite the growing number of invitations that have come her way she remains very humble, noting that she’s just as excited to be taking charge of a week-day afternoon match between high schools as she would be a fixture between international teams. “It’s one of the cool things about being over here on the west coast, just the volume of rugby that is available to aspiring referees. There are just so many more opportunities to improve yourself, it’s a great place to be a rugby referee.”
Shanda and her team before officiating in the Elite Women’s Final between Japan and South Africa
Rugby has always been a big part of Shanda’s life and she sees being a referee as a significant way to help grow the game. “Referees want to encourage good rugby. If we do our jobs well, it delivers a better product for the teams and fans to enjoy.” What is fascinating about her is the juxtaposition of her personality on and off the field. Bump into Shanda on the street or in a clubhouse and you’ll meet a truly effervescent individual, full of character and just as likely to hold a conversation with you whether you’ve known her for 5 minutes or 5 years. On the rugby field though, she becomes much more business-like; there is a job to be done, and she is going to do it to the very best of her ability every time she pulls on her cleats. So while others might think it a daunting prospect to be officiating at international level events, Shanda just approaches it like another day at the office. “It’s important to appreciate what you are there to do. Yes, there are amazing rugby stars everywhere, but I’m concentrating so much on my own performance from game to game that, honestly, a lot of it just goes over my head until I’m back at the hotel each evening.”
Returning to the subject of Dubai, while she may not be fazed by the size or prominence of the tournament, there are definitely some other elements that may push Shanda outside of her comfort zone. “I’ve been to Paris before on vacation, but this will be the farthest I’ve ever travelled outside of North America, which is pretty exciting. The tournament organisers sent us some notes on how to avoid the jet-lag which is helpful. But one of the things they tell you to avoid is napping, and I REALLY love to nap, so that’s going to be tough for me.”
Shanda makes a new friend in the deserts of Dubai (he’s called Bunny)
If you’ve ever thought about becoming a rugby referee, there are courses taking place in BC at the start of 2019 that could be the perfect launch pad. For more information, check out the Referee Courses page of the BC Rugby website or contact Chris Assmus (Officials Development Officer) – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Action at the Emirates Dubai Sevens and Dubai Invitational Sevens gets underway on Thursday, November 29. For more details on the event including schedule and scores, check out dubairugby7s.com