BOULDER, Colo. – USA Rugby announced Thursday the three recipients of the Don Morrison Scholarship, named after one of USA Rugby’s most accomplished referees.
Emily Hsieh and Kahlil Harrison will attend the Maties Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch, South Africa, for three months, while Gavin McCandless will spend the season in Christchurch, New Zealand, as a full-time member of the Canterbury Referee Association.
“The first year of the Don Morrison Scholarship resulted in a young, talented referee honing her skills amongst the world’s best in New Zealand,” USA Rugby Referee Development Director Ed Todd said. “This year we were lucky to be able to select three referees under the age of 25 and give them the opportunity to grow abroad.”
Amelia Luciano, the first recipient of the Don Morrison Scholarship, spent three months in New Zealand in 2013 with the Canterbury Referee Association and kept a blog during her stay.
Hsieh, 23, began playing rugby at Brown University in 2008 before completing the IRB Level 1 course in January of last year and picking up refereeing. Hsieh hopes the experience in South Africa will put her on a path to officiating at the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo.
“I look forward to bringing everything I learn back to the refereeing community in the U.S. and to the teams, players, coaches and parents I interact with because it’s not only important to me that I’m developing personally but also that I’m creating a higher quality rugby experience for the communities I’m a part of,” Hsieh said.
Harrison, 24, played rugby in college from 2008 to 2012 and has been a referee since 2009, officiating matches from the U19 to Men’s Division II club levels.
“I will use my experiences to show that, if the potential referee is willing to take the position of referee seriously, there are few barriers that cannot be overcome,” Harrison said.
McCandless, 18, has played rugby for seven years and has refereed for five years. Before that, he was a certified touch judge, but his long-term goal is to be an IRB panel referee.
“Going to New Zealand will help my refereeing because players will be able to challenge my knowledge of the game because they will have been around the game as long as I have been,” McCandless said. “New Zealand also has an abundance of high-level games, so there will not be a shortage of games for me to learn from.”
The Don Morrison Scholarship is made possible by the Don Morrison Referee Fund, which raises the bar and creates international learning opportunities for up-and-coming referees through generous contributions to USA Rugby Trust. If you would like to support this worthwhile program, please visit the USA Rugby Trust page.