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2014 Scholarship Holders

Matt Adams

With four brothers—two of who also officiate Australian Rules—the rules of play are a hot topic in umpire Matt Adams’ family circle.

The West Australian grew up playing football for the Lakes Football Club in Perth’s South Fremantle District, but admits he was far from a talented player. “All I could do was run, run and run but my skills weren’t good,” Adams says.

When he was 13, a friend invited him to come and train with the umpires. Since his oldest brother Brad was also an umpire, Adams was immediately interested. “I thought that it was a pretty good opportunity to get down there and see what it is that umpiring has to offer and since then I haven’t looked back,” he says.

The 23-year-old combines his day job as a secondary school physical education teacher with umpire training and working part-time as a personal trainer who frequently leads RPM cycle classes. In his spare time, he plays indoor beach volleyball. “Every day is pretty busy and full on but I seem to manage it quite well,” he says.

Days just got busier for Adams with news that he has been selected to be a Perth-based AFL rookie umpire and that he has received a 2014 National Officiating Scholarship from the Australian Sports Commission to advance his skills.

“[The scholarship] is a good opportunity for me to learn what other codes are doing and good opportunity for me to learn about nutrition and psychology and develop as an individual,” he says.

Tim Carlos

In 2013 Australian Rules umpire Tim Carlos was emergency umpire at the Victorian Football League Grand Final. It was, he says, a highlight in a career that he hopes will provide many more.

“I’d like to umpire AFL within the next three years,” he says. “Once you’re in, if your body holds up and you do the right things, you can have a long career in umpiring.”

This year Carlos has been awarded a National Officiating Scholarship by the Australian Sports Commission to set him on the path towards that long career.

“I was proud when I heard the news, mainly because there’s no one else in the VFL to get that opportunity this year, so to be one from the 40 or so umpires, it makes me really proud of how far I’ve come.”

A corporate travel consultant for American Express, Carlos trained for the travel industry having spent much of his teens travelling to watch and enjoy his other great sporting love—soccer.

Ironically, he doesn’t get to do much of either these days because the Australian Rules season conflicts with the northern hemisphere’s summer, and he admits he does become a bit wistful when winter training nights are long and dark and he travels from his home in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs into Melbourne city.

Growing up in Boronia and playing football at Ferntree Gully, the 24-year-old was a keen footballer until his peers started growing and leaving him behind. “I got injured a lot and decided to have a go at umpiring as it was a bit of fitness and a bit of pocket money.”

And while he has experienced some harassment as an umpire, it has not in any way deterred him. “There hasn’t been anything that has damaged me and I like to think of it more as banter between the fans and the umpires. Any harassment is a motivating factor for me and drives me to get better.”

Matt Clarke

Tasmania’s Matt Clarke must be one of the few Australian Rules umpires around who hasn’t played the sport he officiates.  “I played Auskick when I was five or six but I was never really any good at football,” he says. “It was one of the few sports I never really played.”

Yet that hasn’t hampered his career path. From the days as a 13-year-old when he started umpiring at the Wesley Vale Football Club as a favour for his father Rohan’s golfing mate, Clarke has gone on to umpire senior grand finals in the Northern Tasmanian Football League and the Tasmanian state league over. He has also recently been singled out for a 2014 Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship to further his football umpiring career.

However it hasn’t all been a smooth run to the top. A promising cricketer, Clarke represented Tasmania at under age level in several national carnivals and continued to play the sport while progressing through the Australian Rules umpiring ranks. In 2011 while playing cricket he had a major injury to his ankle which virtually shut down his umpiring career.

“In 2012 I went back a level from state league football to regional level to get the confidence back in the body that I could run a full game out, so it’s been a two-year process to get back into state league football with the confidence that my body’s going to be able to carry me through it,” Clarke says.

It has also hampered his trial preparations for a spot in the Australian Football League senior panel, so news of the National Officiating Scholarship was particularly welcome.  “It’s great to have something [to focus on] especially coming back from injury and knowing that it would be hard work to make the trial’s fitness benchmark,” he says.

When he’s not umpiring, the 23-year-old supervises at Spreyton Fresh’s orchards and spends time at the beach, kayaking, white water rafting, competing in fun runs and mud runs. “I like trying different things to keep life interesting and not getting stuck in the same old routine,” he says.

Patrick Lally

Australian Rules umpiring came quickly to Patrick Lally.

Having played for more than 11 years, Lally took a sabbatical from playing the sport while in his final year of high school at Clare, South Australia.  Yet he couldn’t quite give the whole game away and after seeking out an opportunity to umpire a junior league match, the following week he was umpiring a B-grade men’s match.

“I was really thrown straight into the deep end but I really enjoyed it,” Lally says. “It was very different from playing but I grew to love it quite quickly.”

Now, having umpired several grand finals across various age groups and having umpired under-18 national championship games where he notes that he has officiated players who will go on to become “AFL superstars”, Lally is looking for his own career break thanks to an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship.

The Adelaide-based environmental scientist will spend the next 12 months working with experts to hone his skills in an endeavour to move his career to the next level.

The 25-year-old says he has come to enjoy the challenge of being “thrown in the deep end” and even seeks this out in his private life.

“Outside of the season I love travelling and I’ve been to 26 countries,” he says. “I absolutely love the new experiences food and culture. I love being thrown into a new place with totally new people and new experiences. You learn a lot about other people but also about yourself.”

Danielle McIntyre

When Danielle McIntyre refereed her first match for wheelchair basketball players, two things stood out.

The first was that the 164cm referee was able to look down at play rather than having a customary sore neck from looking up at able-bodied players.

The second was the row of prosthetic legs leaning against seats on the sideline.

“I was a bit weirded out by all those legs just chillin’ on the sideline,” McIntyre admits, “but [players] are just the same as everyone else. You find out some of their stories and just go, ‘wow’, but when they start playing, they just power through. Some of them may not have legs, but they are very strong in their upper body and they can push those wheelchairs pretty fast.”

The 23-year-old says the main difference in refereeing wheelchair basketball is assessing where players’ axles and footplates are and she says, “at first it’s pretty intense to try and get your head around”.

Although she works by day for manufacturer Stegbar, McIntyre can be found most other times at Melbourne’s Knox Basketball centre where she splits her time working as a customer service representative; competing as a player on Mondays and Wednesdays; and refereeing on Fridays.

She was introduced to refereeing for basketball players with a disability by a family friend who had a child with a disability. For a while she balanced the refereeing with her own representative playing career for the Knox Raiders under-16 and under-18 sides before deciding to concentrate on her refereeing career under the guidance of Kilsyth’s Sharon Arnold and Barry Spicer.

Now, McIntyre has been awarded a 2014 National Officiating Scholarship from the Australian Sports Commission to further her refereeing career. “I’m going to take as I come and put as much as I can into it to get as much as I can out of it,” McIntyre says.

Jessica Byrnes

If she could referee basketball underwater, Jess Byrnes says that would be the past-time that would combine both of her sporting passions. The 23-year-old loves water sports and works as a pool lifeguard at Bayswater in Perth. However she is currently making more waves on the basketball court, having just received a coveted National Officiating Scholarship for 2014 from the Australian Sports Commission to further her basketball refereeing career.

It’s a far cry from 10 years ago when she approached her local Lakeside Basketball Club to enquire about becoming a referee and was turned away.

“I’d been playing domestic basketball for a couple of years and the idea of [refereeing] had always interested me but I was turned down because there were too many referees and there was no sort of pathway at the time, so it was first in best dressed,” Byrnes says. She didn’t give up and nine months later started refereeing at the same club.

Byrnes comes from a strong basketball family with younger sisters Courtney, Sophie and Charlotte all playing and Sophie also taking up refereeing.

Basketball friendships also feature strongly in Byrnes’s life and she says it is particularly meaningful that in her most memorable officiating moments at an under-18  national final in 2012 and an under-20  national final in 2013 she has been on the court with friends who are also referees.

Experiences like these make her want more. “These experiences are the icing on the cake,” Byrnes says. “They make me want to referee and strive for that top level rather than being happy with just the everyday games. The opportunities, the learning, the chance to develop friendships ... they’ve been the best and that’s what keeps you going.” 

Anthony Wilds

A decision to “prioritise life” led Anthony Wilds to concentrate his time on becoming the best cricket umpire he could be. At one point the Bathurst, NSW-native was refereeing touch football at an Australian level and also refereeing soccer at a local and state level while trying to maintain an appropriate work/life balance with his wife Jennifer and two children.

He says cricket has always been his “number one” sport, having played until he was 40. After spending 12 months out of the sport Wilds says he realised how much he missed the team environment.

Following a four year apprenticeship umpiring through the country ranks, Wilds began umpiring in Sydney and last year made his TV debut umpiring a T20 match at ANZ Stadium for the women’s Ashes—an experience he describes as one of his most memorable to date.

Yet when it comes to setting his sights even higher, the 50-year-old is philosophical. “I’ve never set specific goals, I don’t think that’s fair,” he says. “I certainly aim to do my best and give it my best. I approach every match and opportunity I get with 100% commitment. Managing a match well & getting the decisions right is very satisfying, to walk away knowing you have given your best on the day is all you can ask for.”

He says becoming a 2014 Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship recipient made his eyes “light up” at further opportunities. “Sport involves far more than just the on-field work,” he says. “The preparation is critical so any advantage you can get is invaluable. I have an interest in and have officiated in other sports as well, so this officiating scholarship really excited me about the involvement with other sports.”

He hopes to use the scholarship to learn more about time management. As a technician for Telstra, travelling 200 to 300km a day in his work role, and travelling from Bathurst to Sydney and other centres for his cricket umpiring Wilds says maintaining the “line between family life, fitness and sanity requires an extreme balance”.

Greg Davidson

When Greg Davidson inspects a cricket pitch he does so not only as an experienced umpire, but also as a parks manager with an extensive background in green keeping and horticulture.

“It’s an advantage, especially when you are trying to work out what the pitch is going to do, whether the ball is going to seam or move around, it gives you a bit of an insight being able to read wickets,” Davidson says. “I also suppose when captains are trying to pull the wool over your eyes, when conditions are a little bit uneasy you have the background knowledge to say that it is safe to play because at the end of the day it’s solely the umpire’s decision.”

It’s difficult to write about Davidson’s background without also pointing out that he stands 207cm tall. “I am possibly shrinking because I was 209cm 10 years ago, so I’ve peaked,” he says, adding that his height could be seen as an advantage. “I used to say the advantages are the bowlers can still get in closer to the stumps and I can still see over them and they don’t block my vision so that gives bowlers a bit of a chance.”

But as a former bowler who played for the Parramatta Cricket Club until he was 37, the now-43-year-old said being an ex-bowler could also be seen as “having an advantage”.  “Look, I don’t think there’s an advantage or disadvantage [to height] as long as your eyes are working, your ears are working and you’re healthy and able to read the game, you’re  on your way to becoming a good umpire.”

Davidson turned to umpiring to continue his involvement in the game and because he sensed that it would be better on his body and give him a degree of longevity.

On learning that he was to receive an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship for 2014 to further his career, Davidson said it validated his decision. “I was over the moon to be honest. I knew it was another opportunity to improve my skills and to be able to network with other sports officials and have specialist coaches who were only going to benefit my development in umpiring in general.”

Daniel Elder

In December 2013 Daniel Elder refereed the final of the Football Federation Australia (FFA) State Institute Challenge at the Australian Institute of Sport and was awarded referee of the tournament.

For the 21-year-old it was a career highlight that he could not have anticipated when he started refereeing in Adelaide at the age of 16 “for the pocket money”.

“My brother James and sister Lauren and I all played [football] but when I was 16 my friend Daniel always had a fair bit of pocket money on Monday morning from his games on the weekend so I asked him where he was getting it and eventually went with him to training down at Santos Stadium,” Elder says.

“I found that I actually enjoyed the refereeing side of the game as opposed to playing and was also pretty good at it, and things just went from there.”

This year Elder has also taken on a National Officiating Scholarship courtesy of the Australian Sports Commission but it was a case of luck and circumstance.

“I wasn’t successful in 2011 and I hadn’t applied this year, but someone dropped out and I was called up late so first I was surprised, but obviously I am really happy to be working with professionals, be it psychology, media, dieticians and also meeting people from other sports and discussing information and different techniques.”

A health science student at Adelaide University, Elder hopes to continue successfully dividing his time between refereeing and study with plans to continue post-graduate studies in health sciences. 

Joanna Charaktis

Football refereeing runs in Joanna Charaktis’s family. The 20-year-old’s uncle Manny and father Jim both coached and refereed the sport. It was her father who encouraged Charaktis to take up refereeing when she was 14 in Melbourne’s Wheelers Hill. She had already played the sport for six years but that was soon to change.

“I played soccer and refereed for one year overlapping and after that decided pretty much that refereeing was for me,” Charaktis says. “I’m a much better referee than player that’s for sure and now, I’m here five years later on a scholarship.”

The scholarship is a National Officiating Scholarship from the Australian Sports Commission and Charaktis will spend 2014 under the tutelage of experts in a range of disciplines, helping her hone her refereeing skills.

She admits that while the scholarship is exciting, it will make for a full workload, with study at Monash University in physiology and psychology as well as a part-time job at Tiffany & Co, and her refereeing commitments.

“I heard about the scholarship before from a few other referees in Melbourne who had been through it so I was super excited. They said really good things and I heard it was terrific for development and there was a lot you could access so I was definitely excited about it.”

The news has also made her think hard about her future direction, with Charaktis considering working towards a Masters in Clinical Exercise Physiology.

“I still have a year to decide and choose, but that’s where I’m heading at the moment. I need to decide what is going to fit in well with refereeing because I do want to get as far as I can go so a lot of travelling is not going to fit in with everything so I have to think about that.

“But I love travelling and I love going to national tournaments. All of my W-League games this season have been really enjoyable because we’ve had the opportunity to use [communications] gear and be fully miked up. When you have experiences like that you just want to keep going.”

Emily Carroll

It’s a measure of her dedication to the sport that despite breaking her arm midway through umpiring a men’s hockey semi-final, umpire Emily Carroll finished the match.

“As I was changing direction I fell down and was very hurt but kept going and it ended up that I had broken the scaphoid in my wrist,” Carroll says. “It’s the only injury I’ve had while umpiring, but I was in plaster for four weeks.”

The injury has not marred Carroll’s love for the sport that she has played since being introduced by her father Jim in Canberra as a child.

Carroll, her brother Nicholas and her sister Alison have all played and have all fulfilled the sport’s commitment to have players umpire the lower grades.

Carroll was the only one of her family to progress her umpiring career.  “I love hockey in general and I enjoy umpiring and the fact that you get opportunities to travel, around Australia and around the world as well,” Carroll says. “I also love the feeling you get from helping people learn about the sport. You’re not just there as an umpire to manage the game and to apply the rules; you’re there to help everyone play the game in the appropriate manner and have fun.”

Carroll recently finished a Bachelor of Global and Ocean Science and Master of Environmental Management and is looking to work in the marine environment sector, but her study hasn’t yet finished, with news she is a 2014 recipient of a National Officiating Scholarship to improve her umpiring skills.

“I was very excited to hear [about the scholarship],” she says. “I thought it was an amazing opportunity and really good to learn and develop as an official.”

Zeke Newman

Missing out on a national officiating appointment when he was 18 was the catalyst for Zeke Newman to redouble his efforts to become an elite hockey official.

“I missed out an under-15 national appointment and the rejection was probably my worst moment [in my officiating career] having prepared myself for the tournament and being told by other coaches that I would go,” Newman said. “It made me think about whether I really wanted to be an official and the answer was yes and it pushed me to strive to become better and to go on to gain appointments higher up the ladder at a Hockey Australia level.”

Now, the 22-year-old Sydney University human movement student is undertaking a year-long National Officiating Scholarship with the Australian Sports Commission to work towards international accreditation.

“Hockey’s new to the National Officiating Scholarship program so getting a scholarship and being the first male hockey umpire to get one has been rewarding,” Newman said.

The sport is a big part of Newman’s family life, having started as a player at 12 at the Entrance Hockey Club on the NSW central coast and coaching and playing still. His sister Jaimi also plays as did his father John along with his fiancé Jessica and her brother Matt Dawson.

Jessica is first grade captain at Sydney’s Ryde Hockey Club where Newman also plays. While hockey umpires don’t normally officiate across the genders, Newman said he has umpired a few of Jessica’s practice matches. “She doesn’t like it at all and it’s a major concern for myself that she does most of the cooking, so I might not eat for a few days if she doesn’t like what I’ve done on the pitch,” he says.

He has also umpired her brother who plays for the under-21 Australian team which has put the couple under some pressure. “Sometimes there are times when [Jess] wants to support her brother, but she wants to support me as well,” he said.

Liam Nicholls

He was told that a decision to work as a lifeguard in New York for three seasons from 2005 to 2007 would end his rugby league officiating career in Australia but Liam Nicholls has proven the naysayers wrong, earning a 2014 National Officiating Scholarship from the Australian Sports Commission.

“It wasn’t so much [a big decision] at the time” Nicholls says. “I didn’t think it would be detrimental to my officiating career and I saw it as an opportunity to go travel with a friend and earn some money ain an interesting job. But upon return after the first year I was told it did have an impact on my profession as a referee and I probably wouldn’t ever make it to the top because of that decision and in retrospect that was probably the hardest and largest barrier I’ve had to overcome in my career.”

The now-30-year-old came late to rugby league. A long-time soccer player, he recalls watching his peers play rugby league at the weekend and something “triggered” in him. “I was at a local ground in Shell Harbour and I just decided I wanted to be a referee. I was 16 and the following weekend I did the exam, and because referees are usually low in number I was out there refereeing the under-6s the next weekend.”

The high school counsellor says his goal has always been to improve on where he finishes the year before. “So my first grand final was the under-11s, and the next one was the under-12s and I always set a goal from there to improve a little bit from the year before and that’s been successful.”

He says he was surprised to learn he had received an officiating scholarship “given the nature of our career and our chosen sport” but “privileged and humbled” to have the opportunity to pursue more officiating opportunities.

Adam Cassidy

Rugby league referee Adam Cassidy never expected to follow in the footsteps of his father Michael, who was a NSW rugby league referee in the 1980s and 1990s but having spent much of his childhood and early teens travelling around NSW watching his father officiate, he saw it as a “positive step”.

At 15 he began refereeing a Cronulla under-6 competition and worked his way through the grades to under-18 club matches with his highlight last year being the third grade grand final of the state club cup.

The 28-year-old has just received a 2014 Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship to further his career and says it was great to get the recognition from his sport. “I’ve talked to other guys who did it and hearing the experiences that those guys got from the camps and the networks that they built was very exciting for me, along with the opportunity to connect with officials from other sports.”

While Cassidy would ultimately like to referee an NRL grand final, he appreciates the hard work that will need to be put in. “It’s not as though I can go straight [to the NRL] from refereeing where I am now—unlike players who seem to be able to get into that league when they’re 18 and fresh out of school—for a referee it’s a long, hard slog that takes a lot of time, a lot of effort,  and a lot of family support, so it’s going to take commitment and focus.”

Part of that focus has been shedding 15kg. “At one point in time I weighed 100kg because I’m a big foodie and it’s a big part of my life, but I took a stance and wanted to take officiating seriously and I got my weight down,” he says. Now my food passion is to one day own a restaurant or cafe.”

Liam Kennedy

When Liam Kennedy realised rugby league refereeing was going to be a big part of his life in Australia, he knew that his days as a team fan needed to be put behind him and decided he needed “another sport to support”.

After hearing other referees talking about American sport, Kennedy became interested in the American Football League. “I’m a big fan of the NFL,” he says. “I’m like any other person in that I have a team that I support in that competition and it keeps me interested. I went to America two years ago and got to see some games and I really enjoyed it.”

Back in Australia, the 25-year-old Brisbane-local is carving out an officiating career in the domestic rugby league competition and will be one of 24 officials across various sports to this year receive a National Officiating Scholarship from the Australian Sports Commission.

He says looking at people who have previously received similar scholarships, he is “looking forward to what this program can do”.

“I was very pleased and knew that it was another step in my career,” he says. “If I was playing the sport, I’d never get as high, but now as an official, I can see how much more potential there is and much further I can go and hopefully I can make a grand final or a state of origin in the future.”

Jarrod Cole

At 18 when Jarrod Cole stopped playing rugby league to concentrate on refereeing the sport, his friends criticised the decision, saying he was better at playing than he would ever be at officiating.

“But I believed at the time that I could go a long way in officiating and that’s why I was happy to give away playing,” Cole says, “And at the moment, I wouldn’t take it back”.

The now-21-year-old has been awarded an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship to help him advance his career following a highlight performance refereeing the national youth competition of the National Rugby League, the Holden Cup and consistent performances across other domestic competitions.

He hopes to one day referee in the NRL. “But I know there are little steps along the way,” he says. “I’ve just started refereeing Queensland Cup that was main goal for this year which I’ve achieved so far for the rest of the year it’s trying to remain consistent in that grade. Hopefully I will get to referee a few more Holden Cup games and head towards that for the future.”

Based on the Gold Coast, Cole became interested in rugby league and touch football at the age of 10 with encouragement from his father, Murray. He refereed touch football and at 15 his father took him to a rugby league referee course. He refereed for the next three years before the Queensland Rugby League Academy asked him to join.

The sport is now an intrinsic part of his life whether it’s refereeing or helping out with Queensland squads while finalising his physiotherapy studies. 

Graham Cooper

For rugby union referee Graham Cooper only a berth at an Olympic final or a World Cup final could improve on his greatest accomplishment so far – standing on top of Mt Kilimanjaro watching the sun rise over the African continent.

South African by birth but having lived in Australia since he was seven, 24-year-old Cooper persuaded some Perth school friends to return with him to Africa to spend their 2011 summer holidays “on a different leisure activity besides lying by a pool somewhere”.

While they took their fitness for granted and did a “minimum” of training, Cooper said nothing could prepare them for the altitude. “We struggled with that but it was a good challenge ... one of the best experiences I’ve had.”

Despite rugby union being South Africa’s national sport, neither of Coopers’ parents was involved. “I picked it up when I moved to Australia and I guess it was a sport that I was interested in going through the ’95 World Cup and after winning that I guess it really influenced what sport I liked.”

He took up refereeing at Wesley College when, as a senior student, he was encouraged to referee the junior teams and gained his Level 1 refereeing certificate.

He started working with Rugby WA straight after school and is now the organisation’s education and retention manager.

Cooper has also been awarded a 2014 National Officiating Scholarship and says he hopes use it to push to the top of his chosen field.

“I guess coming from Perth and being a little bit aside from Sydney and Brisbane football my short term focus is the Sevens development pathway and then on to the Sevens world series and then I guess in a couple of years time hoping to be on the Super rugby panel,” he says.

Michael Hogan

Rugby Union almost lost referee Michael Hogan to competitive rowing. The 30-year-old was an oarsman throughout his senior years at Brisbane Grammar School and rowed at England’s Henley Royal Regatta in 2001.

“It was a fantastic sport and life experience to be rowing down the Thames in front of 100,000 people at Henley and it’s something I’ll always remember,” Hogan says. “I continued rowing, and then surfboat rowing, after school and into university but  I found my way back into rugby when I moved to Canberra and found it was a bit far from the beach to keep going with the surfboats.”

He played rugby in Canberra until a 2008 move to Sydney for a busy new job made him reconsider his playing future.

“I took up refereeing because I wanted to be involved with the game, but didn’t think I’d have the time to play.  Ironically, I now spend much longer on referee training and preparation than was ever required for the very modest level at which I played,” Hogan says, adding that he is inspired by his father Mark who is an active referee in Brisbane and has officiated several hundred games of club rugby.

A lawyer in the construction industry by day, Hogan says there are many similarities between his work and his time on the rugby pitch. “Applying the law is a necessary but small part of both jobs and in both there’s a lot of focus on interacting with people and seeking to understand what they’re trying to achieve rather than just doing things by the book.”

Hogan’s next step for 2014 is undertaking a National Officiating Scholarship from the Australian Sports Commission to fine tune his refereeing skills. 

Jennifer Heath

Jen Heath has come a long way since she learned to roller skate in suburban Brisbane’s Clayfield at the age of four with cushions strapped to her front and back.

Today the 26-year-old is moving into the top ranks of Australian roller derby refereeing and is rapidly manoeuvring towards an international career.

She is also a recipient of an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship for 2014 to boost her career chances and says she is excited that the scholarship may give her the opportunity to travel to American competitions.

“The place to really expand your officiating in derby is over in America so being able to have the funding and the experience to go across and really learn from those American refs and take everything from that experience in one year is really awesome.”

If it wasn’t for a sudden realisation that her skill set was better suited to a position of authority, Heath may have become a roller derby competitor having been introduced to the sport by a friend. “Originally I started training to become a skater but I’m already an accountant in my everyday life and I just sort of decided one day that I liked the idea of officiating more than I liked the idea of being hit personally, so I started ref training and just went from there.”

She says the pinnacle of officiating in her sport would be the roller derby championships in America. “This is the top 12 teams in the world coming together for one weekend tournament and there are three crews of seven referees so you’re in the top 21 in the world and you’re refereeing those top teams which is just incredible,” Heath says. “At the moment the top Australian teams is in the low 20s world-ranking wise so they generally end up in the play off tournaments and they haven’t reached the championship levels and we’re hoping that they too will get to the championship level in the next couple of years.”

Rhoda Bueker

When she sits an exam at the World Inline Speed Skating Championships in Argentina later this year, Rhoda Bueker will be attempting to become one of only two Australians to hold a current international inline speed skating referee licence.

Ironically, the 40-year-old Victorian only roller skated for fun as a child and has never competed in the sport she now oversees.

It was when her son John started competing at an Eltham skate rink that Bueker, being a self-described “nervous mother”, needed distraction and organisers gave her a time keeping role.

“Shortly after they said, ‘you could do this full time’,” Bueker recalls, “And before I knew it I was in the throngs of officiating.”

She has now been officiating for nine years, spending much of that time as a place judge, a lap counter or a corner judge on the 400m tracks before becoming a head referee in the middle of the track, overseeing entire races and the refereeing team.

Bueker says one of the hardest decisions she has faced was disqualifying her son during a national competition. “That was very, very difficult, but I was able to get through it and be standing at the end of the week and John and I were still talking,” she says.

When she’s not officiating, Bueker is a part-time accounts manager and a treasurer and committee member of both the Eltham Speed Skaterz Club and Skate Australia Victoria Speed Branch.

Bueker said she was excited when she learned that she had been awarded a 2014 National Officiating Scholarship from the Australian Sports Commission to help her develop her refereeing skills. “It’s the first for us in our sport and I was just overwhelmed that they would consider me and our sport to invest the funds and timing so yes, I was really excited,” she said.

Teresa Goddard

Having lived in Australia and New Zealand, an affinity with water and swimming comes naturally to swimming referee Teresa Goddard.

That affinity has been passed on to her daughter Alexandra, who has risen through swimming squads before turning to open water events and becoming a nationally-ranked 10km swimmer.

While Alexandra has been forging a competitive career, Goddard has been developing an impressive officiating career, becoming a national open water referee, a multi-class national pool referee and soon attempting to attain her national pool referee credentials.

“[Alexandra] competed in a lot of carnivals at Chandler and I was constantly sitting in the stands watching everything going on down on pool deck and I didn’t really understand who all the officials were down there,” Goddard says.

“Of course, sitting with the parents you also hear a lot of criticism about what’s going on, so I decided to find out for myself. Like many people, I started out as a timekeeper and I got interested in how the process worked and what the rules were. Before then, I didn’t know.”

The 54-year-old Queensland public servant has received an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship to help her take that next step and has described it as a “dream come true”.

She says her age is no barrier to longevity in swimming officiating. “What keeps me coming back is the wide variety of people that I get to meet, the fact that there are so many different challenges and every meet you come away from feeling as though you’ve learnt something or ‘wow’ that was a great achievement from a swimmer.

“I’ll be [officiating] as long as I can ... in fact one of my mantras is that you’ve got to keep active. I think I’m fitter than a lot of 54-year-olds. Officiating is quite an energetic process because you do a lot of walking. I think I can keep up the pace for quite a long time. Unfortunately with [international accreditation] you do have an age limit, but once I’ve reached that, I’ll continue to work at state and local levels.” 

David Cooper

Swimming official David Cooper still gets a feeling of excitement every time swimmers are about to take to the blocks ready for him to start them on a race. However, it’s then down to the serious business of making sure that all the swimmers are stationary before he presses the button to sound the start signal.

During the week the 49-year-old is a team leader for Cement Australia but come the weekend he will almost always be on a pool deck somewhere starting off a group of eager athletes.

It is a pattern that Cooper has followed now for 14 years since his son Jake was five and joined the Nepean swimming club. When he volunteered to time keep, Cooper was spotted by a senior NSW swimming referee who encouraged him to take on more officiating challenges.

Before long he was officiating at national and state level and enjoying both the challenge and the people he met.

While his children’s interest in swimming waned, Cooper’s grew. “[Jake] doesn’t think it’s funny when I tell him I’m going to nationals and he’s not,” Cooper jokes. “And my daughter only thinks I go swimming to get out of the house work.” When pressed, Cooper says that is sometimes true. “I was busted by my wife once when I was at a club meet, we were cleaning the rooms and I was vacuuming and I thought someone else was behind me and I said, ‘I normally go to swimming carnivals to get out of this’.”

On learning that he had been awarded an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship, Cooper said he was happy and proud. “I was proud that I was one of two people in swimming, one of 24 people in the whole of Australia who was nominated for this. I was quite proud to tell people that it is pay off for the hard work that both my wife and I have put in over the years.”

Cooper plans to use the scholarship to help him realise his goal of becoming an internationally-accredited starter and to be appointed to swimming’s international officiating panel.

Jeromy Jones

When Jeromy Jones first started as an elite chair umpire for tennis one of his first matches was overseeing two Asian players whose surnames he couldn’t pronounce. Jones decided to use their first names for the whole match.

“I came off court and was told very promptly that’s not the right thing to do so I had to learn quickly the pronunciation of surnames or ask before I went on court,” Jones recalls. “It is one of the tougher jobs you have as an umpire.”

It is not a problem he had encountered in his previous role as an elite Australian Rules umpire where players’ are consistently addressed by their first names. And it quite possibly would never have been a problem if Jones had stayed on his football officiating pathway.

Despite umpiring two league grand finals of the West Australian Football League and being placed on the Australian Football League rookie list as a goal umpire, Jones had to decide between his day job as a West Australian police officer based in regional WA, or becoming a full-time AFL umpire.

“I decided to give that side of umpiring a miss and continue my career as a police officer,” he said. “AFL was always where I wanted to go so there’s always going to be regret there but at the end of the day I’ve got a strong career and I love my job.”

Tennis, on the other hand, had always been a constant element, albeit in the background throughout Jones’s life.  As a junior he played at Perth’s Blue Gum Tennis Club and it was while playing a tournament that a board member of the state tennis umpires association approached him to consider umpiring.

“She brought me along to a couple of the training days and I thoroughly enjoyed it,’ Jones says.  When he ended his football umpiring career, Jones reignited his passion for tennis umpiring and in 2013 was the chair umpire for the women’s wheelchair doubles at the Australian Open.

He hopes a year-long national officiating scholarship from the Australian Sports Commission will help him have more court time at an Australian Open, but also at his home tournament at Perth’s Hopman Cup.

Emma Walter

Never having played tennis, Emma Walter was understandably nervous when her mother “volunteered” Walter and her twin sister Sam to “get out of the house” during their university holidays and help out a family friend by umpiring at an international tennis tournament in the ACT.

“So my sister and I turned up at the tennis court and were shown the ropes … if a ball hits the line, it’s called in, if it’s not then it’s out … and off we went,” Walter recalls. “It was a bit of a learning curve going out for the first time and not understanding why they scored 15 love, 30 love or how the concept of a tie break worked, but has was really interesting was that the people were just so amazing and they loved tennis umpiring and I kind of got swept up in their enthusiasm.

That was 12 years ago. While her sister is no longer involved, Walter this year was chair umpire at the Australian Open junior girls final, and is soon to head to the Wimbledon tennis tournament for the European summer season.

The 33-year-old has also received a 2014 National Officiating Scholarship from the Australian Sports Commission to further her umpiring career.

“I was shocked and immensely proud at the news as we have so many amazing tennis officials coming through the system and to be identified and provided with such an opportunity was absolutely incredible,” Walter says. “I was really honoured not just to represent and to gain information for myself but also being able to share that with my colleagues and really help build the tennis officiating community.”

As a community service worker, Walter says that being able to communicate with a range of people is a skill that transfers to the court. “I think listening is a key skill and being able to communicate and be patient, that’s helped me in both lines of work.” 

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