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2012 Scholarship Holders

Chris Cook - Australian Football League

At the age of just 14, South Australian Chris Cook made his umpiring debut at a Riverland A grade match.

Far from being daunted by the experience, Cook thrived on the challenge. He’d had no lack of exposure to umpiring. Cook’s father, Robert, was an umpire in the local Riverland competition and Cook had been a long-time player in local competitions.

For four years he continued to play football in the morning in the junior competition before going out and to umpire on the boundary in the Riverland A grade evening matches. Later he began umpiring the Riverland’s independent A grade.

Cook said it was when he was in Year 12 that he finally decided umpiring was for him. ‘I just decided to make the next step and the following year I gave up playing football to concentrate on umpiring. I went to Adelaide the following year and joined the junior panels in the South Australian National Football League and from there on umpiring has been the focus.’

The 22-year-old now combines his training commitments with studying teaching at the University of South Australia.

He has also become a recipient of a 2012 Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship and said he was looking forward to gaining more advice from experts in psychology, recovery and nutrition to help him towards his short timer goal of umpiring a South Australian National Football League grand final.


Joel Harris - Australian Football League

For Tasmanian Joel Harris, one of the major attractions of being an Australian Rules football umpire is meeting new people and developing good relationships.

‘I can honestly say in my friendship group at the moment 90 per cent are involved with football,’ Harris said. ‘It’s definitely something I can take away as being a positive so if anyone is out there and wants to give it a go, [umpiring] definitely has a social scene. It also has a lot of similar characteristics to playing football … you stay fit, it’s a team environment, you interact with a lot of people and at the end of the day it’s rewarding meeting new people.’

Harris got his start in umpiring after reading an article in Hobart’s Cosgrove High School newsletter in which new umpires were being sought.

He was 15 and Harris said for the first couple of years of umpiring he’d been in it mainly for the pocket money and the fun. Then his older peers started to travel to umpire at under-16 national championships and under-18 national championships and Harris wanted to join them.

‘After I saw all these blokes go away I thought I’d really like to have a crack at it, and I could see [to do it] you concentrate on looking after your diet and having a good pre-season, getting as many free kicks right as you can and having a professional attitude in your approach to football.’

The 25-year-old learned the lessons well. He umpired at the 2011 under-16 national championships in Blacktown and has recently been named as an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship holder for 2012 which he describes as a ‘career highlight’.


Andrew Rutherford - Australian Football League

Australian Rules football umpire Andrew Rutherford’s owes his love of the game to his father Steve who emigrated from Scotland to Melbourne and quickly became a fan of the then-Victorian Football League (VFL) competition.

When Steve later moved to Sydney and started a family, his love of the sport didn’t wane and he introduced his son to the sport from an early age.

‘I played it as a junior and in my teens, but I took a year off footy during year 12 to focus on my HSC,’ Rutherford said. ‘Unfortunately I had a knee injury when kicking a soccer ball at school. I was really worried about going back into playing footy again.’
Fortunately Rutherford met a friend at university who shared an interest in both playing and umpiring Australian Rules and recommended he try umpiring.

It wasn’t long before Rutherford was umpiring under-18 competitions, then the senior men’s competition in Sydney. In 2011 he umpired the inaugural North East Australian Football League (NEAFL) competition in New South Wales.

Now Rutherford has received an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship to help him develop even further.

‘There have been a couple of my friends who have gone through [the scholarship program] in recent previous years, but they haven’t always shared their experiences,’ Rutherford said. ‘Now that I’m here I want to make sure that I share what I’m doing with other people and whoever follows in my footsteps next year so that they get the most out of the program.’

The 26-year-old is a physical education teacher at south-west Sydney’s Granville Boys High School. He said there is a ‘big crossover’ with him umpiring in his teaching in skills needed to manage people, build rapport and generate mutual respect.

He said his motivating drive behind umpiring is being a great facilitator of a football match. ‘I love it when you walk off the ground and nobody’s noticed you. Part of me feels I’ve already achieved those goals.’


James Waldorff - Australian Football League

It was the opportunity to earn $20, a pie and a coke that first set James Waldorff on the path to umpiring Australian Rules football.

He was in grade four at primary school in Devonport on Tasmania’s north-west coast and a friend’s father who played the sport encouraged Waldorff to try umpiring.

Waldorff said Australian Rules quickly became a big part of his life even though his three siblings and parents were never involved in the sport. ‘My friends got together and we all decided football was for us. We’d play on the Thursday night and then on the Sunday we’d all umpire together.’

At the age of 16 as he was starting to umpire senior football in Launceston and thinking about a career and future in umpiring, Waldorff was involved in an accident that gave him pause.

‘It was the first quarter, I bounced the ball in the middle and I was running backwards to adjudicate the next act of play and a player ran straight into the back of me. I went down and I remember waking up a few seconds later, there was no assistance, I just lay there on the ground until I could get up. About 15 minutes later near the end of that quarter, I got hit again, so I was concussed twice in that first quarter and I was very sore but I finished the game.’

It was a tough lesson, but one which the 27-year-old has only helped him become more aware of himself and others on the field. ‘I think if you can wear a couple of hits when you’re not expecting them, then you’re doing okay.’

Now Waldorff is about to have even more chance for introspection, thanks to a National Officiating Scholarship from the Australian Sports Commission.

The bloke they call ‘Duffy’ (after golfer Duffy Waldorf) said he plans to spend the next year working on his fitness and nutrition and hopes eventually his hard work will earn a trial with the Australian Football League.


Riannan De La Torre - Basketball

In 2009 as the ball was about to be tossed to start the gold medal game at a national tournament, referee Riannan De La Torre suddenly realised she had left her whistle in the referees locker room which had been locked. Everyone on court had to wait while the key was located and De La Torre reclaimed her whistle.

It was, she said, the most embarrassing moment of her refereeing career to-date and offered an important lesson in what to add to her mental checklist as part of her pre-match preparation.

The 25-year-old is set to add to that checklist with the news that she has won a 2012 National Officiating Scholarship (NSO) from the Australian Sports Commission (ASC).
De La Torre said she wants to use the scholarship to help her increase her skill level and in turn, the number of games she referees in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL). She also hopes to become a regular on the WNBL referees’ roster, as well as continuing to referee the NSW Waratah Division, and ultimately championship matches.
De La Torre has spent more than 13 years as a basketball referee, moving up through the country ranks. She started at the age of 12 in Bathurst where parents Christine and Trevor were players. ‘I started playing as a young child and then I got into officiating just to look at the game from a different angle,’ De La Torre said. ‘I quite enjoyed and things just went from there.’ She continues to play socially in Wollongong, where she has worked for the past eight years as a workers’ compensation case manager for QBE Insurance.

She said for her, basketball refereeing was about the love of the game and the excitement. ‘It’s about being able to be part of some really exciting games whether it’s a local competition that’s really close or whether you’re doing a gold medal game in front of thousands of people.’


Sam Nogajski - Cricket

Second chances have a played a big part in cricket umpire Sam Nogajski’s umpiring career.

Now 33, the Tasmanian’s first began umpiring 15 years ago after he was sidelined for 12 months following a cartilage injury while playing for Clarence Cricket Club.

Nogajski officiated for one season, but as his fitness improved, the then-18-year-old was eager to go back to playing which he did for the next five years. ‘[but] I always promised the hierarchy at umpiring that I’d come back and officiate, and I’m very, very glad that I did,’ Nogajski said.

The second chance at umpiring paid off when he made his debut as an umpire at first class level in November 2011 officiating at a match between Queensland and NSW at the Gabba which gave him a ‘taste for more’.

Nogajski now hopes to make it to the umpiring national panel ‘receive a contract as a respected umpire and join the 12 highly capable guys on that panel’.

He said news that he had won a 2012 National Officiating Scholarship from the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) would help him work towards that goal. But this was also a case of second time around for Nogajski who was unsuccessful in a bid for a 2011 scholarship.

His working life, too, has given him a second chance at his bid to continue an umpiring career. A secondary school maths teacher, Nogajski moved from one school to the all-boys Hutchins School because of the school’s support of his umpiring endeavours. ‘The Hutchins School has been behind me 100 per cent,’ Nogajski said. ‘The Headmaster of the school has often said that he wants the students to follow their dreams and why shouldn’t the staff be able to do the same.’


Adam Kersey - Football

For up-and-coming Brisbane-based football referee Adam Kersey, having the opportunity to assist in a handful of matches in Football Federation Australia’s A League has given him the taste for more.

‘Hopefully in the next year or so I’ll get a couple of middles and if I do well in that then keep going up the ladder and maybe get some internationals,’ Kersey said.

The 23-year-old who is in his tenth year of refereeing is banking on his recent Australian Sports Commission (ASC) National Officiating Scholarship to give him the edge.

Close friend and regular A League referee Jarred Gillett is a former scholarship holder and encouraged Kersey to take the most out of the year.

‘I think the best thing about it will be getting access to the experts and help with the non-skills side of officiating like improving my diet and dealing with negativity,’ Kersey said.

While football refereeing may seem like a solitary pursuit, Kersey said it’s actually the camaraderie among referees that makes him love what he does. ‘Going to training every week and talking to the other boys about what you’ve done and knowing that you’re not the only one who is having the same issues and getting through all the difficulties and that they’re there to help you improve is definitely the best thing.’

Although he has experienced some on-field harassment, it hasn’t put a dent in his ambitions. ‘Harassment is quite common unfortunately in our sport. It seems to be the culture in football to crowd the referee after decisions. I’m not turned off,’ he said. ‘I thrive on the challenge of rising above it and proving them wrong and still refereeing well.’


Lucien Laverdure - Football

As a child, Lucien Laverdure participated in cricket, tennis, karate, swimming and soccer—encouraged by parents Noel and Wildith who emigrated from Mauritius, met and married in Australia and wanted an active life for their four children.

As an adult Laverdure’s sports list has grown to include cycling, running and triathlons. Yet through it all football has remained the constant.

Perhaps demonstrating the genetics of his uncles who played football at a high level in Mauritius, Victorian-based Laverdure became captain of Haileybury College’s First XI soccer team and twice won best and fairest as a club player, but it was a school physical education class where a local soccer referee gave a lecture on the laws of the game that Laverdure credits as his turning point.

‘My interest grew and I started refereeing one day of the weekend while playing the other,’ he said.

Laverdure was chosen to officiate at the 2006 and 2007 under-15 schoolboys national championships in Coffs Harbour where he was identified as a young up-and-coming referee and tagged for development. In 2011, after strong performances in the Victorian Premier League season, Laverdure received the Victorian Referee of the Year award and officiated the Alanic Victorian Premier League Grand Final.

This year the 26-year-old has been awarded an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship. He said it was another step towards his goal of having a ‘break out’ season and making it the next step to officiating in the A League.

‘Currently I’m involved as a fourth official, so hopefully I’ll get a gig at refereeing in the middle and from there build my experience and my profile and at some point make the leap to international level refereeing. Step-by-step I want to keep building.’


Gavin Dods - Rowing

When he moved from the United Kingdom to Australia a little over a year ago, rowing umpire Gavin Dods was impressed at the spacious waterways available to Australian rowers, particularly those based in Sydney.

‘Coming from the eastern region of England where there is side-by-side racing on rivers and canals that are just wide enough for two or three boats, it seemed a luxury by comparison to come to New South Wales and see huge expanses of water and coves and parts of the harbour which are wide enough for 10 racing lanes,’ Dods said.

The 41-year-old railway signalling engineer was a nationally recognised rowing umpire in the United Kingdom and hopes to gain similar acceptance in Australia.

He has recently received an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship to help his development and is also on his way to gaining international recognition through the sport’s governing body FISA by sitting the umpires’ qualification exam in 2013.

‘There’s certainly nothing like this [scholarship] in the UK,’ Dods said. ‘It’s something very interesting and I think it looks like a cracking time. I’m looking forward to working with the experts in the year to come to develop my skills and hopefully get that international licence.’

It’s all a long way from Bedford in England where, as a schoolboy, Dods was a coxswain. ‘Being a cox you are in charge of the crews. You see lots of umpires and see what they’re doing and how regattas are run. I’ve never really grown to the physical stature that rowers need to be so I moved to the next natural step when I went to university and I was getting a bit too big to cox. I was doing lots of coaching and I though umpiring would be a good way to stay involved in the sport without the huge time commitment [of coaching].’

Dods took his umpiring commission at the age of 21 and, having umpired now for over 20 years, said there is a good chance he could still be umpiring for at least another 20.


Nicholal Morel - Rugby League

The number 114 has particular significance for rugby league referee Nicholas Morel.
In June 2011, while officiating in the under-20 Queensland Cup competition in Townsville, Morel learned that the National Rugby League (NRL) referee for the North Queensland Cowboys and New Zealand Warriors had fallen ill.

Morel was asked to step up and suddenly found himself debuting as touch judge for the entire NRL match and gaining NRL referee number 114 in the process.

‘It was pretty exciting and made me hungry for more. Now I want to establish myself in the Queensland State League and hope it leads to a full-time position with the NRL,’ Morel said.

He hopes that the advice and assistance he receives during his year as a 2012 Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship recipient will help him do just that.

‘One of the guys I live with was on the scholarship four or five years ago and another who I’ve come through with has also been on scholarship and I’ve seen how much the exposure they’ve got [from the scholarship] has helped them.’

The 25-year-old is in his eleventh year of refereeing. He was a player until he was 11 and dislocated his knee cap in the grand final of a South Brisbane Magpies match. ‘I lost my confidence and was three years absent from the game,’ he said. When he was 14 his younger brother Jordan was playing and Morel was asked to run the sideline. He enjoyed it so much, that two weeks later he was completing the refereeing course.


Tim Rutherford - Rugby League

When rugby league referee Tim Rutherford learned he was to receive a 2012 Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship, he said he was excited by the prospect of being able to take the ‘next step’ in his career.

‘A couple of my close friends have been on these scholarships and I’ve seen them go from very similar situations where I am to really going further quite quickly with their refereeing so hopefully exposure to different areas and different experts and developing different skills will assist me to do what they’ve done and follow in their footsteps,’ Rutherford said.

‘Ultimately I’d love to make a career out of refereeing in the NRL that’s what drives me and keeps me going. I’m in a pretty fortunate position now in that I work in the game in development but refereeing is my passion that’s the area of the game that I want to work in and to be involved with at the top tier.’

While Rutherford started out playing the sport at St William’s Primary School in Brisbane, he soon found his physical size to hamper his playing progress. Even now, at the age of 25, Rutherford is only 68 kg and said that it’s probably ‘the biggest I’ve been’.
Yet his love of the game drove him to find another way to maintain his involvement. He signed up as a referee with the West Arana club in Brisbane’s northern suburbs and said from there he ‘never really looked back’.

Now, as a full-time national development officer for the Australian Rugby League, the man they call ‘T.Rudd’ said he is relishing being able to pursue not only his dream, but is enjoying working with young, upcoming referees as they set out on their own career paths.


William Houston - Rugby Union

For William Houston’s friends and family it came as no real surprise that he took to rugby union refereeing.

‘I’ve always been a bit whistle-happy,’ Houston said. ‘Whenever it came to playing touch with friends or other sports, I was always kind of trying to be a referee or something, telling someone they had to be five metres back or arguing a point of law with someone.’

The24-year-old also played saxophone for over 10 years was at school at and found the breath control he had applied well when he took to the referee’s whistle. ‘Any opportunity I had to blow the pea out of it, I took and it just seemed like a really natural fit,’ Houston said.

He started refereeing in year 10 at Shore School in North Sydney but it became a much more serious pursuit after his playing career ended following a neck injury in year 11. He gained an Australian Rugby Union scholarship to pursue his officiating and said things just ‘took off from there’.

Now Houston is about to combine his refereeing commitments with a busy time as a graduate lawyer with a leading law practice based in Sydney.

He said in many ways each of his passions complemented the other. His skill in being able to research and retain complex legal arguments helps him navigate the complexities of the rugby union rules and their application, while his refereeing skills have helped him deal with many people from ‘all walks of life and opinions … and to have some immediacy and accuracy when someone comes and asks you a question’.

Those skills, combined with a recent stint sailing on the Young Endeavour where his communication skills were ‘really honed’ have helped Houston believe that his dream to referee at the Hong Kong Sevens tournament might be a little closer to reality.
As an additional boost, Houston has recently received an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship.

‘[Through] the scholarship I now get a chance to have all these conversations about concepts at really high levels of the game,’ Houston said. ‘I never thought I’d be trying to work out how to tell an irate captain to calm down and all the psychology behind it. It’s great to have a chance to think more deeply about these things, like looking after your body and knowing your own strengths and weaknesses better. The scholarship itself presents you with a huge amount of resources and opportunities, why wouldn’t you be excited if you have the chance to be involved with it?’


Matthew O'Brien - Rugby Union

Almost five years ago Matthew O’Brien said he’d never be seen with a whistle in his mouth running around a field as a rugby union referee.

Six months after making that claim O’Brien was indeed running around a rugby field with a whistle in his mouth.

He credits the change to his desire to continue his involvement with the sport after taking a two-year hiatus from playing to travel, and to a conversation with his father, an internationally recognised rugby union referee.

‘Dad was able to paint a positive picture of the possibilities that rugby refereeing can open up for you,’ O’Brien said. ‘I took his advice on board and he certainly helped to ease me in that direction.’

He said there are positives and negatives to having a father who has long been involved in the sport. ‘It helps a lot because he obviously has high level experience which he can impart on me. But it was a little disconcerting to begin with because a lot of people put a lot of attention on me and it took a while to adjust to the fact that I was under that sort of scrutiny refereeing an under-15 C grade match.’

The 30-year-old started playing rugby in Timaru, New Zealand and played at senior club level before moving to Australia at the age of 23. Now a busy pharmacist on the Gold Coast, O’Brien’s still manages to find time for his burgeoning refereeing career, this year officiating at the final of the Dubai Sevens.

O’Brien has recently become an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship recipient and said it would be a good opportunity to ‘find out where I’m at’ in terms of his refereeing development.

He said he continues to gain more and more from his time as a referee. ‘The best thing is the massive opportunity for networking with like-minded people and exciting travel and bit atmosphere opportunities.’


Russell Weatherburn - Squash

A determination to prove his knowledge of his sport led Russell Weatherburn to become an elite squash referee.

While playing pennant squash at Seven Hills in Sydney more than two decades ago, opponents and observers began questioning his rule interpretations. Weatherburn decided to do a rules course and at the end of the course felt he could stand his ground about his past interpretations.

When he moved to Canberra in 1999, opponents and observers again began to question his rule interpretations and so Weatherburn went one step further and completed a squash referees’ course to become a full referee. ‘Again, my decisions didn’t change much,’ he said.

The 37-year-old’s involvement in the sport came somewhat by accident. As a Sydney school boy, he’d become involved in tenpin bowling, but when costs proved prohibitive, his parents persuaded him to take up another sport.

He chose squash and went on to become a junior, and later senior pennant player.
At 194.5 cm, Weatherburn is an imposing figure when refereeing at the back of the court.

He said the height can be both a disadvantage an advantage. ‘It can be an advantage because I can probably see the back wall a lot easier than shorter people but if the referee’s seat is set a short distance from back of the court, there is very congested leg space.’

Imposing figure or not, Weatherburn still cops his share of harassment from players who verbally challenge decisions.

‘I just recently had a quarter final match that I was central referee on and two players on the court had had a quite heated semi-final match in a previous tournament ... one of the players was losing and he got a few decisions he wasn’t quite happy with and expressed it quite a lot and I had to unfortunately give him a conduct stroke for dissent.’
Decisions like that, as well as others made by the sport’s elite referees are also likely to be more widely examined, discussed and circulated thanks to Weatherburn’s other skill set as an IT officer for a media broadcast company. Squash has asked Weatherburn to edit footage of matches to focus on refereeing decisions that can then be used in Powerpoint presentations and referee forums for discussion.

Weatherburn said this process, along with the opportunities available as a National Officiating Scholarship holder for 2012, will improve his refereeing abilities and set him on the path towards his ultimate goal – becoming an international squash referee.


Matthew Bromley - Swimming

Marrying into a ‘swimming family’ meant there was an ‘inevitability’ that Matthew Bromley would end up as a swimming official.

Cairns-based Bromley started officiating in the sport eight years ago, encouraged by his father-in-law Neil Howard, a long-time national swimming official and starter. Matthew’s wife Julie and brother-in-law Andrew ‘Herbie’ Howard are also involved in the sport as coaches.

‘I got involved because my kids were involved, my family is involved and I knew I was going to be in it for a long time, but by the same token, it’s about giving something back,’ Bromley said. ‘I take a fair degree of pleasure out of the fact that I can see my kids swim while I’m walking up and down the pool and that I’m actually giving something back to the community.’

At 44, Bromley is one of the younger officials on the circuit, and it he said far from being daunted it was a motivating factor. ‘The way I viewed it is that unless you’ve got the foundation and the grassroots coming through, then you don’t have officials and you don’t have events. I’m old enough not to be taken out of context, but young enough to not burn out and I have access to these older hands who are both very experienced and fantastic mentors.’

A recent recipient of a 2012 Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship, Bromley said he hoped to use the 12-month scholarship to give him a stepping stone towards his five-year plan of officiating refereeing at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

‘I also want to take something from this program back to regional level and apply it locally so I can help build up the foundation for others coming through.’


Jonathan Lamprecht - Volleyball

Eleven years ago when Jonathan Lamprecht went to his local indoor sports centre at Brackenridge in Brisbane to umpire an indoor cricket match, he never dreamed it would lead to becoming a national beach volleyball referee.

‘A friend who was umpiring a beach volleyball match at the centre asked me to help referee a fundraiser game and I enjoyed that and did well and from there they recruited me to officiate their nightly competitions and I took quite quickly to it,’ Lamprecht said.
He was umpiring A grade beach volleyball games within weeks of starting and came to the attention of national referees like John Moody who also refereed at the centre.
Lamprecht was invited to sit for his national refereeing qualifications and progressed straight to the Australian beach volleyball tour.

In 2007, in what he described as a career highlight, Lamprecht refereed the national women’s gold medal match. The following year he refereed his first world tour event in Adelaide.

‘That’s a dream for any serious beach volleyball referee to get a gig on the world tour and it was a wonderful experience. I’m looking forward to doing it again,’ Lamprecht said.

As a 2012 Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship recipient, Lamprecht wants to tap into ‘everything the program offers’ to see how much further he can take his refereeing career.

‘Every referee wants to do a world tour, world championships. I’d like to see if I’m good enough to referee at the Olympics, but only a very select few get to live that dream.’
In the meantime, Lamprecht is content to enjoy the camaraderie of his fellow officials. ‘It’s those relationships that keep you coming back more so than just the sport,’ he said. ‘It’s that added cherry on top of the cake having those relationships and friendships that last long after your career has finished.’


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