HAVING 30 men at your beck and call at the sound of a whistle could be seen as every woman's dream - but for Helen Miller it is a scenario she acts out every weekend.

As the only woman rugby referee in Durham, Northumberland and Cumbria, the 36-year-old, from West Rainton, County Durham, is fast making a name for herself.

After teaching science at King James I Community College, in Bishop Auckland, during the week she swaps her bunsen burner for a pair of football boots, a whistle and a red card to tackle an even bigger challenge.

She said: "It is an enjoyable sport. At first, there were a lot of 'dinosaurs' who used to mock and say, 'what does a woman know about rugby', but I have now won them over and I get a lot of respect.

"The players are gentlemen on the field and listen to what I say. I get no flack and it is a great way to keep fit and meet new people.''

Ms Miller spends most weekends refereeing level eight rugby, with teams such as Sunderland and Houghton-le-Spring, but finds life a little lonely as the only woman in her field.

She said: "There are plenty of woman rugby referees in the rest of the country, but not up here. I would love more women to join in. It is a great thing to get into."