As a former 110 metre hurdler, Aggie Poon had the pace and the quick feet that made her perfectly suited to playing on the wing or at full-back in rugby.

A meniscus injury to her left knee, however, was one physical barrier Poon was unable to overcome and she had to retire in 2017, aged just 27, with 13 caps to her name.

Having debuted as a 20-year-old, Poon played at Rugby World Cup 2017 and three Asian Games and was Hong Kong’s Women’s Sevens Player of the Year in 2016.

She was a stalwart of the Hong Kong women’s team, in sevens and 15s, and had a reputation as a prolific finisher until she was left with a decision about what to do next.

Rather than limping away from the sport, the professional personal trainer used her knowledge of fitness and conditioning to get her knee right again and embark on a career in officiating.

“Some friends asked me why I did not go into coaching. It wasn’t the easiest decision to make between being a coach or a referee,” she admitted.

“I chose the latter because it would be difficult for me to balance the duties as a coach with my other commitments. Refereeing fitted into my schedule better.

“Also, every team player has her own personality and strengths. It’d require a lot of effort as a coach to design a programme that caters for every single team member.

“As a referee, it is just my problem, to prepare well and be better. I cannot put the blame on other people.”

Learning the law book

Poon isn’t afraid to admit she did not know all the laws of the game while she was playing and continues to strive to get better.

“I thought that refereeing can enrich my understanding of the laws while learning a new skill. I probably knew 60 per cent when I was playing,” she said candidly.

“Doing the set-piece, which includes scrum and lineout, is harder than I expected because the positions I used to play were winger and full-back instead of scrum-half or forward.

“You never stop learning; you should always try and understand the laws of the game otherwise you will pay the price. When you know more and learn more you will be more confident on the pitch.

“I hope to help the players to be more familiar with the laws as well, as having a better understanding of how the game works will help them to improve their performance straight away.”

Poon was appointed to the Asia Rugby refereeing panel this year and says the Amsterdam Sevens is the most prestigious tournament she has refereed to date.

The 31-year-old was part of the Hong Kong women’s sevens team that got to the Rio 2016  repechage only to fall short of making it to the big event.

Tokyo came too soon in her referee development – she only took up the whistle just over three years ago – but Paris 2024 is a realistic aim.

“Refereeing at the Olympics and games at a global level is my goal. It’s a long-term aim as well as a long shot, and I have been equipping myself for it,” she said.

“I have been inspired by Gabriel Lee and Matthew Rodden as they were the two referees who represented Hong Kong at the world level. I know it is an ambitious goal but I’m trying my best to achieve it.”

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