Northern NSW Football State League referee, Stephen Laurie, 25, has achieved one of his objectives as a match official by refereeing the 2016/17 Foxtel National Youth League Grand Final between Sydney FC and Melbourne City FC at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday, January 28.
This is the first appointment, as a referee, by one of our Northern NSW match officials on a National Grand Final level for nearly a quarter of a century.
Refereeing in a very competitive match in stifling heat, Stephen controlled the match exceptionally well and had two major decisions to make late in the match, awarding two penalty kicks; replays showed that he was correct on both occasions.
Stephen was excited when he got the call up for the appointment.
“It is probably the biggest game I have ever been appointed to,” Stephen said.
“I was relieved because it was a goal I set myself that I worked hard to achieve.”
Stephen recently was also our representative at the FFA Boys NTC Tournament in Canberra, officiating with other leading young referees from around the country. At the end of the tournament, Stephen was ranked by the FFA Referees Coaching team present as not only the number one assistant referee in terms of his performances, but also the number one referee.
Along with his successful officiating last season after his elevation to Northern NSW Football’s panel of referees for the PlayStation 4 National Premier Leagues Senior Competition, and his performance as the referee on last season’s NEWFM First Division first grade Grand Final, Stephen has enjoyed a phenomenal last 12 months as a match official.
After starting refereeing at the age of 19, on the recommendation from his dad to earn some money and to stay fit, Stephen grew to favour refereeing over playing as he believed it gave him ‘a chance to go somewhere’ with his footballing career.
“I gave up playing after three years (22 years old) in the local State League which was a really hard decision. I felt that I had a chance to go somewhere with refereeing,” Stephen said.
“I found that I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, it’s a challenge and I enjoy the challenge.”
“From playing, I know how important a decision can be for a referee. I strive to get as many things right as I can. That’s strangely enjoyable, especially when you have a good game and people are satisfied.”
For younger aspiring referees, Stephen’s advice for them is that they have to enjoy themselves and especially have fun, which will make them ‘want to work for it!’
“You have to want it and have to want to work for it. You just need to focus on the little things, as the little things build up… you’re not going to achieve those things over night.”
“Putting in 100% at each drill at training, reading the laws of the game, watching games and making decisions, will get you further to the next step,” he concluded.
Stephen’s next goal is to get involved in the Fourth Officials Panel in Hyundai A-League. We wish him the best of luck in his feature endeavours.