Mike Hester on the Evolution of Rugby in New Zealand

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“Fun is a fleeting moment. Joy is something that’s enduring, something that brings you back.”

Mike Hester works for New Zealand Rugby and is responsible for leading their approach to the evolution of the game at participation level. Prior to this role, Mike spent 28 years at the New Zealand Defence Force where he worked as a Career and Talent Manager.

Mike is also a former FIFA referee and has officiated at the highest level at pinnacles events across the world, including the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and the FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

On the show today, Mike shares some of the skills required for a referee to be at their best in emotionally volatile sporting environments and why investing into early stage referees is so important for the game of rugby. We also talk about the shift NZ Rugby is making from a game-centred approach to one that is more participant-centred.

The work Mike is doing is challenging not only the foundations of New Zealand’s national game but also the fabric of the culture it sits within.


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