What does the largest international youth football tournament in the southern hemisphere require? A lot of referees.
Approximately 180 registered referees have been officiating all week in the nation’s capital for the prestigious Kanga Cup competition. This includes 150 Canberra referees and the rest made up of 30 referees from other states and overseas.
The heavy workload that the Kanga Cup referees endure sees them officiate 3-5 games a day, which is a lot of whistle-blowing and running.
15-year-old Bronte is a local female junior referee who is enjoying her first Kanga Cup refereeing experience.
“It’s been really fun,” Bronte said. “It definitely gives us the chance to perfect our skills and have games constantly and have refs from Queensland that give us their point of view.”
The intense tournament schedule compared to local competition is something Bronte is not used to, but she has found it very rewarding.
“On a weekly basis you get maybe two games and then with Kanga Cup you are getting five games a day,” she said. “It’s definitely a lot more work, but in terms of skills, meeting new people and learning from other people it has been really good.”
Despite the rigorous activity that occurs on a day-to-day basis, Bronte mentioned that all of the referees have come together to create a family-like atmosphere.
“There is a family-build within refereeing,” she said. “We are all a team, you could have met each other that first 20 minutes before a game, but as soon as you hop on that field, you guys are united as a team and are always backing each other up and never feel alone.
“If you aren’t sure of anything, someone is there to back you up and help you out.”
Bradley, (17), is a referee from New Zealand and he said that the experiences throughout the tournament have been different from what he’s used to back home.
“It is completely different,” Bradley said. “There are good teams, good players, and it is a bit more challenging than back home.”
“All the refereeing coaching you get, it is unique compared to New Zealand coaching, the atmosphere is just great and we have had a lot of support.”
While it is only his third year of refereeing and only his first Kanga Cup, learning has played a huge role for Bradley during his time on the field.
“You have to learn the proper positioning as a referee,” he said. “I struggled with that at the start, but now I have completely nailed it down through all the coaching I have received.”
Refereeing three matches a day is something he is not used to, however, he has found it enjoyable and talked about the importance of developing a strong mentality.
“It is challenging, once you get to the third game you are a bit buggered, but it’s all fun, you keep going,” he said. “The morning you get your appointments, you prepare for it and with your breaks in-between, you make sure to warm down.”
Adam Powers is the referee director for Capital Football and the Kanga Cup and he said that initially, it is difficult to find the required numbers prior to the start of the tournament.
“It can be really hard,” Adam said.
“It’s school holidays on a local level so we normally aim to get between 150 and 200 local referees from a pool of about 300 plus local referees that we aim to recruit to work the week.”
Outside of Australia, the Kanga Cup has had a long-standing connection with the Auckland Football Federation to bring referees to the Kanga Cup.
Seeing junior referees like Bronte and Bradley enjoying their time at the Kanga Cup is something Adam is very pleased about.
“It’s great to see,” he said. “Especially for our local referees, it is a great development opportunity because they earn money during the week, they also get additional coaching that they might not get at their local junior club.
“They get to meet some of our senior referees and potentially meet some of the international and interstate referees that bring a different perspective of refereeing.
“It’s great to see by the end of the week, come grand final day the smiles on the referees knowing they have put in a good performance and are enjoying themselves.”