Kelly putting players in the picture as rugby referee

FREELANCE photographer Kelly Mitchell is a well known face on the local sporting scene.

From the pastures of Wilton Lodge Park, to Mansfield Haugh and Albert Park, Kelly is regularly spotted with her camera capturing the action of rugby and football games form the touchlines.

Of late, however, on the rugby front, Kelly has been on the pitch and right in the centre of action after swapping her camera for a whistle.

And she is not only Hawick’s first female referee but also the first in the Borders.

Being involved with the oval ball is nothing new to Kelly though.

She said: “I began playing rugby at Trinity Primary School when I was six-years-old and I believe I was the first ever girl to play for the school team.

“I played for Trinity all through my primary school days and just loved it.

“When I went to the high school I continued to play as there was a girls side at the time and we did very well, winning the girls schools championship.”

On leaving school Kelly maintained her huge interest and love for rugby and joined Melrose Ladies.

After two seasons she left the Borders to become a student at Heriot Watt University. But her rugby links continued as she switched to Murrayfield Wanderers.

However, she was to return to Melrose where she established herself as a top played, until injury ended her playing days.

She said: “I was part of the Scottish Academy Development squad and although I was one of the youngest in the side, I captained the Scottish Under-18 team, which was a great thrill and honour for me.

“Later I progressed into the Scottish ‘A’ squad, but I never managed to get a game and that was as far as I got.”

A bad ankle injury ended her playing days.

“I had two operations on my ankle but they weren’t successful and unfortunately I had to retire,” she said. “I was really gutted but I didn’t have a choice.”

A dark cloud had been cast over Kelly’s rugby, but as the old saying goes: “Every cloud has a silver lining.” And one certainly appeared on the horizon for Kelly.

She explained: “When I first started to play I was a centre, but as I grew older I moved to the middle row as I enjoyed being involved in the rough and tumble.

“I had a bit of a fiery nature and sometimes got into bother with referees, but I always respected them.

“So I got to thinking not long ago about becoming a referee as it’s the next best thing to playing.

“I got in touch with the Border Rugby Referees Association and I am now going through courses.

“I’ve also been refereeing school rugby games and have really enjoyed this.

“I’m quite ambitious about being a referee and hopefully will be bale to work my way up through the grades.

“Rugby is a great game and I have a lot of passion for the sport.”