AIS banner

2017 Scholarship Holders

Aaron Bennett - Australian Football League

Aaron Bennett started his AFL officiating journey at the youthful age of 10, while he was still playing “junior footy” in 2005.

“I remember umpiring Under-8’s first thing in the morning and then rushing to another venue to play shortly after, getting changed in the car on the way,” Bennett said.

But it didn’t take long for the South-Australian official to realise his passion for umpiring AFL and therefore he “hung up the boots” to solely focus on officiating.

The 22-year-old’s umpiring soon took off and he went on to officiate his local league senior men’s grand final at the tender age of 15, which was a record in South Australia at the time.

In 2010, Bennett joined the State League Academy and umpired the SANFL Under-18’s for three seasons before moving to Darwin on an Interstate Umpires Contract in 2013, which Bennett believes was a “turning point in his officiating”.

“In Darwin, I established several important aspects of my umpiring, while maturing and getting into positive off-field habits.  The six months I spent in Darwin were ultimately invaluable and I will always be thankful for the opportunities the NT gave me,” he said.

On his return to Adelaide, Bennett’s officiating rise continued and to date, he has umpired nine SANFL league games, including last year’s reserves grand final and the AFL Under-18 National Championships, for which he credits Northern Territory coaches Mark Noonan and Ray Hocking, as well as SANFL Director Shane Harris.

As a National Officiating Scholarship holder for 2017, Bennett is endeavoring to get as much out of the program as possible, with the aim of achieving his short-term goal of umpiring the majority of the 18 SANFL rounds at league level this year, on the way to his long-term ambition of making the AFL Rookie List, before reaching the AFL Senior Panel.

“With the guidance of my NOS mentor, Chris Kamolins, and having access to high-performance experts, I intend to be a sponge and just learn as much as I can to get a greater understanding of how to become an elite official and setting myself some goals as to how I can make this happen,” Bennett said.

Bennett, who has commenced studying a teaching degree at university and is currently working in customer service, said his parents have been a massive support of his umpiring since “day one” and have rarely missed a game in the last 12 years.

Leighton Rowe - Australian Football League

For Leighton Rowe, his officiating journey started when he was 13 and shared a dual role of boundary umpiring on Saturday and then playing “footy” on Sunday.

Rowe decided to get into umpiring after being encouraged to do so by his dad and uncle, who umpired VFL, and it was also a nice way of “earning a little bit of pocket money”.

A year later in 2010, the Mornington Peninsula-based official had to decide whether to continue playing AFL or umpire, as the games were starting to clash with each other, and Rowe chose the latter and changed to field umpiring in the process.

As his umpiring career took off, the 21-year-old trialled for the VFL at the beginning of the 2015 season and he was promoted to the senior list a year later.

“Making the senior list in 2016 was a pretty surreal experience,” Rowe said.

Rowe umpired 10 VFL senior games last season and was also selected to umpire the Under-18 TAC grand final at the “massive” Etihad Stadium, which is his career highlight to date.

“Umpiring the Under-18 TAC grand final was a goal of mine all year and I worked particularly hard to get it through being persistent.  It was an amazing and exciting experience,” he said.

As a National Officiating Scholarship recipient for 2017, the ambitious 21-year-old is excited to be involved in the program as “it will give him the knowledge to take back with him to the VFL”.

“I spoke to 2016 NOS recipient, Luke Richardson who told me it was a great learning experience, but warned you only get out what you put in,” Rowe said.

Rowe is also looking forward to working with his NOS mentor, and current AFL panel umpire, Chris Donlon, who also umpired the 2011 AFL grand final, and wants to learn how to be consistent with his officiating.

In the short-term, the 21-year-old wants to umpire every VFL game this season and take charge of a VFL senior final, as he aims towards his long-term ambition of umpiring in the AFL.

James Strybos - Australian Football League

For James Strybos, his AFL officiating career started in 2005 as a 12-year-old at his local football club, following in the footsteps of his father, who umpired in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Like many other officials, Strybos tried to manage the balance between playing and officiating, before decided that becoming an AFL umpire “was what he really wanted to do” at the age of 15.

Strybos enjoyed a steady rise up the umpiring ranks and 2012 was a “momentous year” for him, after debuting in the NEAFL competition, and he would go on to umpire 11 games in his first year.

Unfortunately for the Queensland-based official, the 2013 and 2014 seasons were missed largely due to injury and fitness, but this only made his “hungry stronger” and a physically-prepared Strybos returned to the NEAFL panel the following year.

“In 2015, that was the fittest I had ever been and I lost 15 kilograms in that off-season, after new coach Gary Fila challenged me and I attribute my turnaround to him,” Strybos said.

The 24-year-old also enjoyed a vastly successful year in 2016 and was selected to umpire his first senior NEAFL grand final between the GWS Giants and the Sydney Swans, which is his career officiating highlight to date.

After being awarded a National Officiating Scholarship for 2017, Strybos said he wants to utilise the program to work towards achieving his goals.

“The NOS program will give me a little edge over my competitors and help me do the one-percenters to achieve my goals,” he said.

“In the short-term, I want to be available to umpire all 25 NEAFL games in 2017, while my long-term ambition is making the AFL panel, after hopefully sealing a place on the AFL rookie panel in the next couple of seasons.”

Strybos is anticipating a healthy relationship with his NOS mentor, and current AFL umpire, Matt Stevic who has umpired four AFL grand finals.

He said he has always idolised “the way Stevic has gone about his umpiring”, and is looking forward to learning from the vastly-experienced official.

Outside of umpiring, Strybos works as a primary school teacher and he believes both professionals complement each other.

The 24-year-old considers his whole family as “his greatest supporters”, along with his junior club where his officiating career started after watching his dad umpire for many years.

William Hamilton, Australian Football League

As the youngest National Officiating Scholarship recipient for 2017 and a current police officer, Will Hamilton shows wisdom well beyond his years.

The Launceston-based official started umpiring 10 years ago, as an 11-year-old, after gaining encouragement from his brother who was already umpiring.

While Hamilton admits he was “hopeless” as a player but loved “footy”, umpiring gave him the chance to stay involved with the hype of game day.

The 21-year-old, who has worked for the Tasmanian police force for the past five months, has already achieved some impressive feats during his umpiring career.

“My career officiating highlights to date were being selected for the National Under-18 championships and being the emergency field umpire for the 2016 TSL senior grand final,” Hamilton said.

“Getting to umpire at a stadium like Etihad Stadium was surreal.  It was just such an amazing and fun experience for me at such a young age.”

Hamilton said being trained as a police officer has helped him become “more relaxed” on the field and process high-intensity situations better.

“Communication is vital in both my job and in umpiring, and both roles continue to complement each other really well,” he said.

As a 2017 National Officiating Scholarship holder, Hamilton is “hoping to get a lot out of the program”, particularly to assist in how to manage his umpiring with his work, and to help his continual progression up the umpiring ranks.

“Being in the NOS high-performance environment will help me incorporate these extra soft skills into my officiating, which will no doubt help me progress,” Hamilton said.

He is looking forward to working alongside the “polished” Simon Meredith as his NOS mentor, and to learn from “one of the most rounded” umpires, who has officiated various AFL grand finals.

Hamilton said in the short-term his goal is to umpire a TSL senior grand final, hopefully this season, with his long-term aim of making the AFL rookie list within the next three years.

Garry Pettett - BMX

Gary Pettett was introduced to BMX racing in 2009 when his five-year-old son, Jeremy, said he “wanted to try the sport”.

In March the following year, Pettett completed the BMX officials course, which is equivalent to the current level 2 qualification.

A self-confessed sport lover, who “played just about any sport that was going” as a teenager, the Australian Capital Territory-based official participated as a casual BMX racer until 2011 when he decided his time was better spent volunteering as an official.

“I officiated at the 2012 National Championships and decided that I wanted to learn more in the way of officiating and to go on to gain a national level qualification, so I could continue to officiating at national events,” Pettett said.

The 45-year-old obtained the level 3 BMX official qualification in 2013 and has officiated at every National Championships ever since.

Pettett was selected as the Race Commissaire Coordinator at the Cairns round of the 2016 National series and was the Assistant Chief Commissaire for the National Championships that same year, which was his officiating career highlight to date.

“Being able to officiate as the Assistant Chief Commissaire at the Nationals was a great accomplishment for me as it showed I was recognised as having the skills to officiate in an important position at that level,” he said.

As a National Officiating Scholarship recipient in 2017, Pettett wants to improve his soft skills in order to “help him move up to the international level”.

“As someone that is quite rules-orientated and procedural, the NOS program will help me gain an understanding of how emotions are particularly important when officiating,” Pettett said.

Pettett, who has already this year been selected on the National Championships Commissaries Panel and as the Officials Coordinator for the National series, is striving towards his goals of “one day working at the pinnacle BMX international events” and completing a certificate IV in training and assessment.

Michelle Darker - BMX

Michelle Darker decided to “get involved in BMX” after her son went to a ‘Come and try’ day and her first involvement in the sport was in the canteen.

Darker soon realised she wanted to “be out on the track where the riders were as it was a natural progression” and started officiating in 2007 for her local club.

The Queensland-based official, who works as a Teacher’s Aide, has volunteered at most events where her children have competed in ever since, including the State and National Championships, and is currently part of the Queensland BMX Technical team.

“I love being there for the riders, wherever possible, and enjoy helping them to create a smooth-running BMX event for everyone. And in the past few years, I have had the awesome experience of being a Staging Coordinator for the QLD BMX State Championships,” said Darker, who was an official within the registration and scoring teams at these events.

The 44-year-old also earned the position of Staging Coordinator for the 2016 and 2017 BMXA National series and the National Championships in Bathurst.

After gaining a National Officiating Scholarship in 2017, Darker wants to utilise the valuable facets of the program to “gain the confidence of thinking that you can achieve anything”, while striving towards her short and long-term goals.

“Through being in the NOS program, I want to achieve my short-term goal of making the BMX QLD state titles in Townsville this year, which is looking good. In the long-term, I am striving towards becoming a UCI BMX official, which I’ve got a five year window to achieve,” she said.

Darker is looking forward to working with her NOS mentor, and current BMXQ Technical Advisor, Chris Houghton so she “can learn from him and gain the encouragement to help her accomplish whatever she can in BMX”.

Coming from a small town, Darker said she loves being a BMX official as it allows her to make some terrific friendships with some awesome individuals, some of whom have gone on to race and win at international level.

Anthony Hobson - Cricket

For Anthony Hobson, his journey into cricket officiating started in 2010, when he decided to sit the umpires’ exam, while he was still playing in the Newcastle competition.

An ex-player, Hobson played for New South Wales Country, and in England, and holds the record as the only premiership-winning captain in Cardiff-Boolaroo cricket club’s history, in the Newcastle local competition.

But a back injury forced Hobson to stop playing so he decided to focus his energy on umpiring “full-time” in the 2013-2014 season.

“I started travelling to Sydney each weekend to umpire in the Premier competition and after one year in the panel 2, I received promotion to panel 1. This then set me up to start on the Cricket Australia pathway with the Under-17 National Championships in Hobart in the 2014-2015 season,” Hobson said.

The 32-year-old’s career highlights to date were umpiring two televised Women’s Big Bash League matches at the SCG in the 2015-2016 season, and receiving the George Borwich award, for officiating excellence, in his first three years of umpiring.

As a National Officiating Scholarship holder in 2017, Hobson, who works as a fitter and turner, said he wants to use the program to “develop his communication and public speaking skills, as well as learning from other officials, to help with anything that can be adapted to his officiating”.

“Through the NOS program, I also want become more articulate with my communication with players and fine-tune my skills regarding the professional side of officiating,” he said.

Hobson’s short-term goal is progressing onto the National development panel, with long-term ambitions of making the Cricket Australia panel and the ICC panel.

“I have always believed to dream big is better than to have never tried to dream at all,” Hobson said.

The Newcastle-based official paid tribute to the “incredible support” he receives from his wife and two children, as well as from close friend, and Executive Officer of NSW Umpire and Scorers Association, Darren Goodger, and is looking forward to working with his NOS mentor, Robert Faraday-Bensley.

Nathan Johnstone - Cricket

Nathan Johnstone began umpiring in the WACA district competition in the 1997/1998 season, after a season ending knee injury forced him to stop playing cricket.

After working his way up the officiating ranks, Johnstone made his first grade umpiring debut in 2005 at 24-years-old, which made him the youngest to umpire at the level at the time.

Johnstone, now 36, made the Cricket Australia (CA) Emerging Umpiring Panel in the 2011/2012 season, but suffered a setback the year after.

“From a Cricket Australia point of view, I stalled at the end of the 2012/2013 season despite having opportunities as there was a perception that my off-field professionalism required areas of growth,” Johnstone said.

But through hard work and dedication, the Perth-based official has continued to develop his on-field craft over the past four seasons, while ensuring he “prepares like a professional umpire” to establish himself as one of the WACA elite-level umpires.

After a successful 2015-2016 season which Johnstone, who works as a home-based travel consultant, said was a “turning point” in his officiating career, the 36-year-old is anticipating that the National Officiating Scholarship program will progress his umpiring to the next level.

“I feel the NOS program will help me continue my transition from a recreational weekend cricket official, to a professional, elite-level official. The services available are world-class and will be greatly beneficial in me taking the next step, encompassing body and mind preparation as well as utilising the recovery methods that are being made available to us,” he said.

With the help of his NOS mentor, and newly-appointed WA State Umpire Coach, Mathew Cheeseman, Johnstone wants to learn from his officiating experiences, as a former FIFA referee, to help achieve his short-term goal of making the development umpiring panel in the next 12-18 months, with the CA National Panel being his long-term ambition.

Johnstone’s career officiating highlight to date was umpiring his “childhood idol” Brian Lara in the 2014 Festival of Cricket match, which pitted recent Australia cricketing legends, including Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Andy Bichel, against the Perth Scorchers.

Ashlee Kovalevs - Cricket

While Ashlee Kovalevs grew up in a “cricket loving household”, it wasn’t until 18 that she decided to become a cricket official, instead of “just watching her brothers play and scoring at their games”.

Initially, Kovalevs undertook the umpires’ course, in 2012 with her father, with a view of earning some “extra money” while completing an Arts degree with a double major in Politics and International Affairs and Public Relations.

When the Perth-based official’s brothers doubted her ability to umpire cricket, Kovalevs’ competitive instincts kicked in.

“My brothers said ‘you couldn’t umpire cricket’, and this definitely turned things around and made me want to do it more.  As time went on, I realised I really enjoyed it,” Kovalevs said.

After gaining her umpiring accreditation with the Western Australian Cricket Association, the 23-year-old soon found out that the umpiring community in Perth was a “close-knit and supportive one”.

“While initially I stood out as the only female umpire here, I have always been made to feel welcome by the more-experienced umpires.  After listening to their feedback and navigating my first season, I have benefitted greatly from the advice of designated mentors, who continually support my development,” she said.

Kovalevs, who recently left her position as Program Coordinator for the YMCA Western Australian Youth Parliament to complete a Master of Social work, is looking upon her year in the National Officiating Scholarship program with great anticipation.

“Being a NOS holder is amazing as it allows me to access services that usually wouldn’t be available to me,” Kovalevs said.

The 23-year-old’s career highlight to date was umpiring the last game of the Women’s Big Bash League season on January 21st this year, between the Perth Scorches and the Sydney Sixers, in what she described as a “thrilling contest and one of the sort of games that you love being involved with”.

While agreeing she has “age on her side”, in the short-term, Kovalevs, who is already a member of the WA State Representative group, wants to build on her two WBBL appearances and the overall experience to gain appointments to higher-level competitions.

Ben Treloar - Cricket

For Ben Treloar, umpiring was a family affair and he attended a local cricket training course with his dad in 1998, when he was only 16.

While Treloar was also a good cricketer in his own right, it wasn’t until 2006 when he attended a NSWCUSA umpiring course, which enabled him to umpire Premier cricket in Sydney.

“I decided to give playing away the next season and focus on umpiring, which I enjoyed more as you’re involved for the whole game,” Treloar said.

Now in his 11th season of umpiring NSW premier cricket, the 34-year-old has not looked back after deciding to put his energy into umpiring and looks back on his 1st grade debut, between Randwick-Petersham and Eastern Suburbs in 2010, fondly.

“I got to umpire current Test players, including David Warner, as well as Peter Nevill and Brad Haddin, which was quite a solid initiation, but a special experience,” he said.

While umpiring in the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League and being part of the Playing Control Team for Big Bash League matches are proud moments for Treloar, he said being selected as a National Officiating Scholarship recipient in 2017 is his career highlight to date.

“Very few people will get the opportunity to be in the NOS program, so it is a privilege and I will ensure to get as much as I can out of this year.  Through immersing with fellow officials in a high-performance environment, we will be able to bounce ideas off each other and share our experiences,” Treloar said.

Treloar, who works as a high school teacher delivering furniture making to year’s 11 and 12, wants to reach his short-term goal of making the development umpiring panel, but maintains “patience is the key”.

Through working with his mentor Bill Hendricks, who has previously been through the program with former NOS recipient Clare Polosak, Treloar is looking forward to learning from “a great role model who is equipped with a wealth of knowledge”, as he continues his rise up the cricket umpiring ranks.

Catherine Garrington - Rowing

Catherine Garrington has been involved with rowing as an athlete, a coach and official ever since she was at high school.

Garrington said “rowing is a challenging sport with many levels of involvement, from young high school students to masters rowers, and spanning from a social level to international competitions”.

After officiating at local regattas for 15 years, Garrington attained her national officiating accreditation in 2015.

Garrington enjoys her time on the water as an official, using different skills at certain regattas to ensure fair racing for all and for competitors to have a fun race and compete to the best of their ability.

“Being part of a team of officials, orchestrating a regatta, is a wonderful experience, although there can be both expected and unexpected challenges,” Garrington said.

Garrington’s career officiating highlight to date was the 2016 National Championships in Penrith, which was the site for the 2000 Olympic Games and a course she has always enjoyed as a regatta venue.

As a National Officiating Scholarship recipient for 2017, Garrington is working on enhancing her knowledge and skills, with both her mentor, Nick Hunter, and the support of a range of high-performance officiating professionals.

“The NOS program allows me to gain connections with other officials in other sports and enhance my skill base,” she said.

With the help of her NOS mentor, Garrington believes this year will lay a solid foundation for her to progress towards gaining international accreditation, a goal she is aiming to achieve in 2018.

Tina Maher - Rowing

For Tina Maher, her officiating journey started when her two children started sailing ‘Oppies’, ‘Sabots’ and ‘Mirrors’ and she volunteered to assist in the start box.

So it was inevitable that when her children elected to move to school rowing, Tina would respond to a request for volunteers to assist with judging.

“I was frustrated with sitting on the bank watching races and listening to people criticise coaches and officials.  I had already done some officiating with sailing, so I thought I could offer something to rowing,” Tina said.

The 57-year-old, who now consults to not-for-profit organisations on a pro-bono basis, applies much of what she has learnt in over 35 years in corporate and human resource management to her rowing officiating.

“There are many similarities between the two worlds - working with people who are passionate about what they do, push their limits and operate under varying degrees of stress,” she said.

Having obtained State rowing accreditation in 2006 and at a National level in 2013, Tina is now aiming to develop her officiating skills to undertake roles as President of the Jury / Referee at National events, and participate on the Australian Umpires Commission, the panel which manages rowing officials in Australia.

“When I started officiating, I didn’t imagine that I would become so totally involved with all aspects of rowing officiating at National level, and that sports administration would become such a big part of my life,” she said.

“I am really excited about this coming year in the NOS program and working with like-minded people.”

The Hobart-based official is looking forward to working with and learning from her NOS mentor, AIS Performance Manager and FISA umpire, Nick Hunter, to boost the chances of achieving her goals.

“Delving into Nick’s wealth of knowledge and experiences will be a big advantage in meeting the challenges of the program,” Tina said.

Tina is also keen on helping to create a sustained pathway for more people to become rowing officials by recruiting, training and mentoring new officials.

Daniel Olford - Rugby League

For Daniel Olford, rugby league refereeing was in his family’s blood and he decided to follow in his “grandfather’s footsteps”.

Olford received his level 1 refereeing accreditation in the Penrith district on the day he turned 14, the youngest possible age to be a rugby league official.

“My grandmother rang me a few days before I turned 14 and asked ‘if I still wanted to referee’ and I thought it was a good way to continue my grandfather’s legacy, as I used to see pictures of him in his refereeing gear,” Olford said.

A rugby league tragic, he played from when he was five until turning 12 when he admitted to himself “he wasn’t much good at playing”.

Soon after, his rugby league refereeing started to take off when he was selected in the junior representative squad in 2004, before officiating the Under-15 Australian schoolboys championship final in Adelaide three years later.

The 31-year-old’s career highlights to date were refereeing the 2009 SG Ball grand final and a match between Samoa and a touring British side, one year earlier.

“After the SG Ball grand final, I was then selected in the NSW graded squad which was an accomplishment and a relief, and it showed I was moving up the refereeing ladder,” he said.

Olford, who runs a CrossFit gym in his day-to-day work, has been in the NSW graded squad ever since and believes with the help of the National Officiating Scholarship program, and through hard work, he can progress to the next level.

“I am very excited about being a NOS recipient and everything I learn this year in the program will hopefully get me a step closer to my goals,” Olford said.

In the short-term, the Penrith-based official, who has racked up over 85 NSW Cup games and officiated in over 100 Holden Cup games, is aiming to secure a spot in the NRL part-time referee squad in the “next season or so”, with the long-term aim of one day making the NRL squad.

Dan Munroe - Rugby League

‘The difference between the impossible and the possible lies within a person’s determination’ – that is the mantra which Dan Munroe has lived by ever since commencing his career as a rugby league official in 2008.

After deciding that a career path in Exercise Science simply “wasn’t for him”, Munroe ignited his passion for rugby league refereeing after an earlier injury meant he was unable to play again, without extensive rehabilitation.

Previously a touch football referee, the Brisbane-based official knew he had the drive and passion to succeed in rugby league refereeing and it meant “he didn’t have to completely let go of the game he loved”.

“I have always been a disciplined and determined person, which helps on the training field where I always give 110%,” Munroe said.

The 25-year-old, who works as a Baggage Handling Supervisor at Brisbane International airport, has achieved several officiating highlights, including the Women’s State of Origin in 2015 and the Holden Cup semi-final, between the Dragons and the Cowboys, last year.

“At first I thought my selection as a touch judge in the Holden Cup semi-final was incorrect, but our high-performance manager said ‘they had faith in me’, which was a great feeling,” he said.

Munroe is looking forward to his year in the National Officiating Scholarship program, and wants to improve his professionalism off-the-field and emulate the feats of previous NOS recipients.

“Last year I got a taste of some of the big matches and I’ve formed a close relationship with last year’s NOS holders and believe that I can follow in their footsteps,” Munroe said.

The Brisbane-based official said he has also taken solace from his NOS mentor, and former experienced NRL and video referee, Steve Clark, who “has a positive attitude and is proof that hard work and determination leads to success”.

Munroe hopes that by working closely with Clark and through the NOS program, he can achieve his short-term goal of refereeing in the Holden Cup and the Intrust Super Cup as he works towards his long-term goal of a part-time position in the NRL referees squad in the next couple of seasons.

Amber Hibbard - Rugby Union

Amber Hibbard’s journey into officiating started when she began playing rugby in high school and continued once moving to Melbourne for university.

Hibbard completed the rugby refereeing course in 2009 “to assist the club she was playing for”, and it also provided her with an opportunity to remain active while coming back from ACL surgery.

After constantly being told to give up playing rugby to focus on refereeing, it wasn’t until Hibbard was selected to attend the Women’s Nationals in 2013, as an assistant referee, that she really considered it.

“My referee coach, Kevin Maloney, was vocal about me focusing on refereeing and he said ‘you could go somewhere with it’, which made me make that call,” Hibbard said.

The following year, the Melbourne-based official decided to “give refereeing a go” to see if she would progress, otherwise she could go back to playing.

For Hibbard, it was an astute choice and at the end of 2014, she was selected to be part of the National panel, which she has remained on for the past two seasons.

The 30-year-old said participating at various tournaments around the country laid the foundations for great opportunities for her development as a referee, which culminated in her career refereeing highlight to date.

“Being selected in a New Zealand exchange program and to referee a Farah Palmer Cup game, between Auckland and Manawatu, gave me a feeling of accomplishment, particularly as I performed well,” she said.

After being awarded a National Officiating Scholarship for 2017, Hibbard, who works inagribusiness, believes the program can help her progress as a referee.

“Being in the NOS program shows a level of faith and commitment from Rugby and it will help me work on the little things, including psychology, which will give me a better understanding of myself and allow me to utilise this to get the best out of myself,” Hibbard said.

In the short-term, Hibbard wants to continue performing consistently to gain a place on the international panel, within the next couple of years, with a five-year long-term goal  of making the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup.

Damon Murphy - Rugby Union

A former professional Australian rugby union player, it has been “a whirlwind” start to Damon Murphy’s officiating career.

Murphy had quite an illustrious playing career, which included representing the Australia 7’s at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, and for six years in total, playing for the Australian Barbarians, the Queensland Reds and the ACT Brumbies academy.

The 33-year-old only started refereeing 11 months ago, after a meeting with former player and Super Rugby referee Nick Berry, who convinced him to take up officiating and explained “the pathways and opportunities on offer”.

“He said ‘you should give it a go’ and it’s definitely been a good decision. It’s been a rollercoaster ride and it’s quite surreal that I have reached the elite level again, but in a different role,” Murphy said.

As part of that “rollercoaster ride”, Murphy started officiating fifth grade in Brisbane in 2016, before ending the year refereeing overseas in Asia’s 7’s and in the National Rugby Championship.

Murphy, who also works as a mortgage broker, has built on his officiating achievements last year by already refereeing the IRB World 7’s in Wellington, Sydney and Las Vegas in 2017.

“I’m really enjoying the ride so far and through drawing on my playing experiences, I find refereeing to be quite peaceful at times and you don’t get belted anymore at least,” he said.

As a National Officiating Scholarship recipient for 2017, the 33-year-old is eagerly anticipating the year and is looking forward to learning from fellow officials.

“After being selected in the NOS program, the important thing for me is to repay the faith that has been shown in me and to take responsibility for what I’ll get out of it on my officiating journey, which will help move up to the next level,” Murphy said.

The apprehensive Murphy is still trying to “work out the whole referee process”, before setting some short-term refereeing goals, on the way to achieving his ambition of making the IRB panel.

As an ex-player, Murphy said his short officiating experiences have already been “eye-opening” and have shown him a world that he thought never existed, while giving him a greater respect for officials and how hard they work.

James Quinn - Rugby Union

For James Quinn, he decided to start refereeing rugby union at school, when he was 15-years-old, after admitting he couldn’t play “to save his life”.

Despite deciding to play for a couple more seasons, a broken jaw in 2011 ensured Quinn started to take refereeing “more seriously” as it realistically gave him an opportunity to be involved at a higher level of rugby than he ever would have ever played at.

The 22-year-old, who currently works as a boarding school supervisor while finishing off his architecture degree at university, said the 2015 refereeing season gave him “more opportunities”, before jumping from fourth to second grade the year after.

As a National Officiating Scholarship recipient for 2017, Quinn feels a sense of accomplishment after being selected in the program.

“Being in the NOS program, Australian Rugby have given me a big opportunity to develop my officiating, which gives me a positive drive to now push it further,” Quinn said.

In the short-term, the Sydney-based official wants to utilise the NOS program to improve his game-connection and overall assertiveness out on the field, with a goal of refereeing first grade this year, which would make him one of the youngest referees to do so.

With the help of his NOS mentor, Damien Mitchelmore, Quinn is eager to learn from his past officiating experiences, and current sports coaching role, as he strives towards his long-term goal of refereeing Super Rugby.

“Many of the current top Super Rugby referees, and people on the National Panel, have been through the NOS program and with the help of the specialists and their mentor, these officials have been motivated to progress, which is a testament to the NOS program,” he said.

After refereeing for seven years, the ambitious 22-year-old’s career highlight to date was being the assistant referee for the Sydney World Rugby 7’s during the past two years.

“It was exciting being out there and I was shocked to be selected in the first place. To be able to be involved in international rugby in front of a big crowd was a massive adrenaline rush and drives you to aim to be selected for more events,” Quinn said.

Quinn said he learnt valuable lessons from such an “exciting experience”, which he will draw on along with the insights he is set to gain from the NOS program, as he continues his officiating journey.

Stephen Carsley - Swimming

For Steve Carsley, performing under pressure on the big stage of the sporting arena came at an early age when in the 70s he played football on the hallowed turf of Lang Park in front of a capacity crowd.

In his teenage years, Carsley was a ball boy at televised tennis tournaments at Milton Tennis Centre, and once managed to delay the infamous John McEnroe from serving after an incident in the centre court scoreboard box.

The Brisbane-based official tried almost every sport as a youngster and if he wasn’t competing, he would umpire age group tennis finals – with fair play and the landscape of the spectacle being the motivation.

“Why wouldn’t you do it? It’s the best seat in the house, watching the best players ply their craft,” Carsley said.

Oddly enough, the 50-year-old wasn’t associated with swimming so much, until his young family started taking part in swim meets. Then in 2005, he was “lured onto the pool deck” after a mate’s hilarious invitation.

“My mate said ‘all you have to do is push a button when they finish, there are free drinks, and the view is pretty good too. They’ll even feed you, if you stick around long enough’,” he said.

From here, Carsley, who works for a major television network, has rarely looked back and his national swimming officiating career kicked-off the following year in 2006.

“There is always something new to learn at each and every swim meet, including the different dynamics of the participants. There is no substitute for good preparation but I’m always mindful of that next curve ball coming,” Carsley said.

Forever grateful to those who have helped him over the years, Carsley is looking forward to this year’s National Officiating Scholarship program and has his sights set on qualifying to reach international FINA officiating status.

“I want to make the most of this great opportunity of being selected in the NOS program by improving my officiating, especially the soft skills, and the selection was particularly timely as it can help me move to the next level,” he said.

Carsley’s career officiating highlight to date was working at the 2014 Pan Pacific Games on the Gold Coast, as he was “satisfied to be recognised to officiate at that level” where some of the world’s best swimmers competed.

Alan Smith - Swimming

Alan Smith became involved in swimming in 2000 after his oldest son “graduated” from learn-to-swim classes to swimming club.

Thursday nights soon became a ritual for the father of three and as soon as his son would compete, Smith would time-keep, before exposed to both marshalling and check-starting.

After another one of his children “caught the swimming bug”, Smith was fortunate to be ‘tutored’ by a level 3 referee, after she moved to the same western Queensland town, where he learned the finer points of swimming officiating as a referee.

The 52-year-old continued to hone his officiating skills after gaining a work promotion to the Gold Coast hinterland at the start of 2009, and he soon became a technical official with Swimming Gold Coast.

“After moving to the Gold Coast, my skills were further “fine-tuned” by more-experienced colleagues, who were willing to share their expertise, and soon after I gained my level 1 referee accreditation in early 2010,” Smith said.

Now a level 3 swimming referee, Smith, who is a principal of a large state secondary school in southeast Queensland, said he still “gets a buzz” every time he works on pool deck, as was particularly the case when appointed for the first time to referee at the 2013 Australian Short Course Championships.

As a National Officiating Scholarship recipient for 2017, Smith wants to utilise the program to strive towards his long-term officiating goal of becoming an international FINA swimming referee.

“Being in the NOS program, I want to make the most of this opportunity by improving myself, and also want to learn what it means to officiate at the international level,” he said.

While Smith’s career officiating highlight to date was working at the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships, alongside superstar Michael Phelps, he intends to continue his grassroots swimming involvement by ‘blowing the whistle’ at club nights every Thursday.

Martin Oosthuysen - Tennis

Martin Oosthuysen started his officiating journey 23 years ago in 1994, after being invited to attend a Rules of Tennis discussion presented to school teachers in his region in South Africa.

Realising that this was the most likely way of getting to his dream tournament, Wimbledon, Oosthuysen took a keen interest in tennis officiating and completed the ITF level 1 officiating course the following year.

Oosthuysen, who is now based in Sydney, started full-time professional officiating after completing his Economics bachelor degree in 1999 and his first breakthrough in international umpiring came via his selection to the 2000 Olympic Games.

In 2001, Oosthuysen achieved his international chair umpire certification in Cairo, after successfully completing the ITF level 3 school.

The years between 2001 and 2007 were particularly successful for the 39-year-old as he pursued a professional career as a Bronze badge chair umpire and officiated at various grand slam events, including seven Australian Opens and Wimbledons, four US Opens and two Olympic Games.

Oosthuysen, who was promoted to an ITF Silver Badge chair umpire in 2004, achieved the same status as a tournament referee three years later, and said he attained various accomplishments during those successful officiating years.

“My proudest officiating moments were being selected to line umpire the 2004 Athens Olympics Mens Gold Medal match as a line umpire and being appointed to chair umpire one of the 2007 Wimbledon mixed doubles semi-finals, between Jamie Murray / Jelena Jankovic against Daniel Nestor / Elena Likhovtseva,” Oosthuysen said.

“Both of these were huge accomplishments, particularly the gold medal match in Athens, which distinguished me as one of the best line umpires in the world, at the time.”

As a National Officiating Scholarship holder for 2017, Oosthuysen, who has moved away from on-court officiating and is currently pursuing a career as a professional referee, is looking forward to progressing to refereeing “high-end” professional events on a regular basis, which is his short-term goal.

“Being part of the NOS program will provide me with the skills required to effectively and confidently communicate with the elite athletes and to understand their needs as high-performing participants in the sport,” he said.

In the long-term, the 39-year-old, who is currently working for Tennis Australia as the Officiating Development Co-ordinator for NSW and ACT, is aiming towards becoming an ITF Gold Badge referee with the ambition to one day referee the Australia Open.

Philip Tang - Tennis

For Phil Tang, he always had a “keen interest” in tennis. While growing up, he used to collect the Australian Open programs and spent his summer holidays watching as many tennis matches on TV as he could.

After admitting that he was a “terrible tennis player”, he jumped at the opportunity of acting as an official for his younger sister in 2002, while she was playing representative school tennis.

Fast forward a few years to 2010 and while Tang was at the Australian Open as a spectator, he was handed an information leaflet on how to become an official.

“I thought why not? Because I had already had officiated tennis, albeit in an un-official capacity, so I made contact with Tennis Australia and enrolled in a line umpiring course and the rest is history,” Tang said.

Since then, the 33-year-old, who is a qualified lawyer, has progressed up the ranks as a line umpire doing local tournaments, right up to grand slam level.

“Some of my proudest officiating achievements so far are being selected as a line umpire at the 2016 Australian Open men’s final, 2016 Australian Open mixed doubles final, being squad leader for the 2016 Davis Cup tie between Australia and the USA and officiating the 2015 Australian Open women’s final,” he said.

For the past 18 months, Tang has been making the transition from being a line umpire to becoming a chair umpire and believes the National Officiating Scholarship program will help him build on his existing skills to progress.

“This is a good time for me to move up through the tennis officiating ranks and it is inspiring to be in the NOS program, alongside some officials with an amazing work ethic,” Tang said.

Upon successfully achieving his White Badge ITF chair umpiring certification in Canberra in March, the Melbourne-based official is aiming to officiate at the 2020 Olympics and at the overseas grand slams, as he strives towards his long-term goal of one day being the Australian Open Referee.

Follow us

follow us on facebook follow us on youtube follow us on twitter follow us on instagram

Did you know?

Gold Coast 2018 is the 5th Commonwealth Games to be hosted by Australia.

Quick numbers

11.6 million Australian adults participate in sport or physical activity three or more times per week.
3.2 million Australian children participate in organised sport or physical activity outside of school.
$10 billion is spent annually by Australians on fees for participation in sport or physical activity.
17 million Australian adults participate in a sport or physical activity every year.
650 thousand Australians either coach, teach or instruct sport.