Olivia Flannery started officiating in 2017 and, while she was unsure at first about becoming a referee, was soon won over.
“Once I started, I grew to love being a referee,” Olivia said.
Northern NSW Football is celebrating Newcastle Permanent Referee Recognition Week from July 20 to 26, thanking the wonderful match officials who make playing football across northern NSW possible.
Olivia’s family has a history of refereeing, which is part of the reason why she decided to become a referee.
Her father was a former referee and has since returned to the role. Olivia also has three brothers who have all been referees.
The 17-year-old said she enjoyed having her father and younger brother at games officiating with her.
“I always had a support network that I could turn to when I had any questions or didn’t understand certain decisions, which allowed me to constantly improve and grow in confidence,” Olivia said.
Olivia was selected by Football Far North Coast (FFNC) to attend the Girls TOP Camp last year, which is held in conjunction with the Northern NSW Football (NNSWF) State Championships.
Olivia said the camp allowed her to learn many new skills and become more confident, which is a testament to NNSWF Senior Officer – Match Official Administration and Development Brad Carlin and his fellow coaches for the support and coaching they provide to the referees at the camp.
Olivia performed well at the camp and was recognised as the 12-years Referee of the Tournament.
Following her efforts at the Girls TOP Camp, Olivia was invited to participate in the 2020 NNSWF Youth Referee Academy.
The academy sees the development of talented young referees fast-tracked so they can be considered for selection at FFA national competition events and hopefully one day the A-League and W-League.
“The academy has taught me to be determined with my training and to stay motivated towards achieving my goals,” Olivia said.
“Being part of this group has helped me stay motivated and guided me in training and the development of my skills.”
Olivia said the main parts of refereeing that she enjoyed were being actively involved in games and being part of a community.
“Some challenges are the abuse that I sometimes experience as a referee, however there has been improvements to how we are encouraged to deal with abuse to make the role easier,” she said.
Olivia hopes to continue to improve her refereeing abilities so she can referee at higher levels of football.