‘I would tell my 18-year-old self to embrace my mistakes in life and learn from them instead of viewing them as a negative’

Rugby referee Joy Neville
‘I would tell my 18-year-old self to embrace my mistakes in life and learn from them instead of viewing them as a negative’
Assistant referee Joy Neville during the Guinness PRO14 Round 2 match between Connacht and Southern Kings at The Sportsground in Galway. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

- Rugby referee Joy Neville

Q: Ambition or talent — which matters more to success?

A: There is a bit of both. You can nourish talent but if I were to focus on one, then I would pick ambition. With ambition, you reflect on the platforms that are present and use these platforms to achieve your goals through performance and being selected.

However, in order to perform, we must strip it right back and put a plan in place in order to achieve these goals and walk away with no regrets, knowing you have done everything in your powers and if you don’t succeed, you have a free conscience and can still be proud of your efforts.

Q. Who is/was your sporting mentor?

A: I have had a lot of mentors/sponsors throughout my playing career and refereeing career. From a player perspective, I had learned a lot from Philip Doyle (Goose — head coach — Ireland) and Greg McWilliams (backs coach — Ireland).

From a refereeing perspective, I would not have achieved all that I have without David McHugh (former coach) and without the constant help and support from Johnny Lacey (my current coach) and Dudley Philips (IRFU high-performance referee manager).

Q. What ambitions do you still have?

A: I think our ambitions naturally evolve, especially if you hit your goals.

My main ambition is to referee the Rugby 7s at the Olympics. Within the 15s game, I have refereed numerous Challenge Cup games, however, my main goal is to get selected to referee in the Champions Cup.

Q. Where are you happiest?

A: At home with my wife, family and friends. This pandemic has made me realise how lucky we are! We are healthy and happy.

The world had become fast-paced and as a result this has certainly made me take a step back, slow down to spend time with my nearest and dearest, take a breath and relax more!

Q. What’s your guilty pleasure?

A: Food — Full stop. I am just so weak for chocolate, so I work hard on avoiding that throughout the season as I am one of those individuals that must finish off what was opened.

Plus, it isn’t easy keeping up with those athletes at the best of times, never mind after binging on chocolate.

Q. The four people you’d invite to a dinner party?

A: Freddie Mercury, Barack Obama, Eddie Murphy, and The Tiger King (Joe Exotic) — imagine those conversations.

Q. If you could pick one superpower, what would it be?

A: Dangerous question isn’t it? I was going to say, to be able to predict the future however, there are negatives with that … So for that reason, I’ll pick being able to fly!!

Q. What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

A: I would tell my 18-year-old self to embrace my mistakes in life. Learn from those mistakes instead of viewing them as a negative.

If we do not embrace our mistakes and understand the WHY, why they happened, then we

prevent further learning and allow for the same mistakes to be repeated.

Q. The one result you’d change if you could.

A: The girls beat New Zealand to get to the 2014 World Cup quarter-finals in France. Unfortunately, they lost to England in the following match.

I was in the crowd with my wife Simona supporting them. I would have been ecstatic if the girls had made it to the semis!

Q. A motto you live by

A: Work hard and be kind — kindness costs nothing and no-one really knows what is happening in other people’s lives.

I do have to remind myself of this but I actively try to be thoughtful and aware of others.

Q: One team-mate you’d want to have your back?

A: Fiona Coghlan — Extremely loyal person, tough as nails both on and off the field but who will also tell you the things that are not easy to hear.

Q: Your manager’s on a lie detector, what’s the first question you ask him?

A: If it was close to my contract renewal, I would ask him, what is his cut-off price! One must make the most of a good opportunity, don’t you agree?

Q: The best perk of your sport away from the game?

A: Rugby is so very unique for its rugby family and community spirit which I thought I would lose post-playing. However, those connections are very much alive and well.

This is one of the most comforting aspects of the game.

Q. Out of 10, rate your satisfaction.

A: 9 — I am a very reflective person, I understand how lucky I am compared to other people.

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