TOP rugby referee Precious Pazani is over the moon after she capped off a memorable season by being named the Referee of the Year during the Zimbabwe Rugby Referees Society’s end of season awards ceremony at Old Hararians Sports Club last weekend.
Pazani was the biggest winner on the night by being the country’s Rugby Referee of the Year in recognition of her achievements on the international circuit this year.
“It means a lot to me, just getting my hard work recognised. Like anyone who sets out to do anything, at the end of the year you want to see if what you have done has been fruitful and this for me is a way of seeing that I’ve had a fruitful year and I’ve done a few things right,” Pazani said in an interview with the Sports Hub.
Pazani, who is currently in the United Arab Emirates, where she is officiating in the popular Dubai 7s Invitational Tournament, said she was also surprised by the barriers she managed to break in what has been a landmark season in her career.
“It’s been an amazing year and the tournaments I’ve been involved in are things I never saw myself being part of or doing. For instance refereeing in the Six Nations, going to the Sevens World Cup and just being involved in all that has been a great opportunity for me and I’m really chuffed about it, that I got to tick all these boxes and to be involved in these tournaments this year. So 2022 has been a good year and im really looking forward to next year,” she said.
The multi-talented Pazani has been on a steady rise since crossing over from basketball to rugby, where she played for Zimbabwe in women’s rugby sevens before venturing into refereeing in 2014.
This year Pazani became the first Zimbabwean rugby referee to officiate at the World Cup after her participation at the Rugby World Cup Sevens, which was held in Cape Town, South Africa in September.
Earlier in the season, the 32-year-old official also broke barriers after officiating in a number of high profile competitions such as the Women’s Six Nations Championship, men's Under-20 Six Nations Championship and the 2022 men’s Rugby Africa Cup which doubled as the qualifiers for next year’s Rugby World Cup.
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The 2022 edition of the Zimbabwe Rugby Referees Society awards also saw another rising local rugby referee Talent Gandiwa claiming the Colleen De Jong Cup.
The Colleen de Jong Cup, which is named after former ZRU chief excecutive and Rugby Africa excecutive committee member, is awarded to the official who best displays ethos of the game and the society.
Mutare Sports Club player turned referee, Gideon Myambo was also among the big winners after bagging two awards out of the five categories he was nominated in.
He is the 2022 most improved referee and traveller of the year, the latter being recognition of a match official who recorded the highest mileage through the whole season.
Zimbabwe Rugby Referees Society president Abigail Kawonza described their annual awards as a big success.
“The 2022 Zimbabwe Rugby Referees Society Awards went very well. It’s a great way to finish off a season and to appreciate and acknowledge the work that everybody has put in. It’s all about the members because when we returned from the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019 it was very difficult, we had a lot of gaps and shortcomings on and off the field. Im glad we have come together as a society and acknowledged the work that the members have put in,” she said.
“We had all the affiliated provinces represented, Manicaland, Harare and Bulawayo so It was a great way to finish the year and we applaud the work that the members have put in. We also thank our sponsor JFT because they were with us throughout this year and will continue to be with us through 2023 and again we are very grateful because it’s one big headache to actually kit all the referees but JFT have come on board and they have supported us and they will continue to walk with us by kitting all the regions in 2023,” she added.
Zimbabwe Rugby Referees Society Awards Winners:
Most Improved Referee - Gideon Muyambo
Rookie of the Year - Julius Madzima
Coach of Match Official (CMO) of the Year - Walter Njowa
Educator of the Year - Abigail Kawonza
Upcoming Female Referee of the Year - Praise Mhurudzekunze
Traveler of the Year - Gideon Muyambo
Most disciplined Referee - Trust Chizikani
Upcoming Male Referee of the Year - Clive Mutepfa
Colleen De Jong Cup - Talent Gandiwa
Referee of the Year - Precious Pazani