When former Marist College student Michael Barlow ran the boundary in this year’s AFL Grand Final in Perth, he followed in the footsteps of one of Canberra’s most well-known officiating exports.
Ray Chamberlain grew up in Canberra playing football before his passion turned to umpiring. He has become one of the most decorated whistle-blowers in AFL history, overseeing more than 340 games so far, including 15 successive years of finals football.
Earlier this year, former Canberra rugby league referee Ben Cummins became the first in NRL history to officiate in 400 first grade games. Ben’s career includes 13 Tests and 14 Origins as well.
Reuben Keane’s father was a rugby union referee. His progression from a player with the Vikings club to blowing the whistle was a natural progression. Along with fellow Canberra referee James Morris, Reuben officiated in the Rugby 7s at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
Over the past fortnight, Reuben has taken his refereeing career to the next level following his appointment as the assistant referee for the now-completed Rugby Championship games involving the Wallabies, All Blacks, Springboks and Argentina.
Canberra tennis umpire John Blom has spent the year umpiring major tournaments, including Wimbledon, the US Open and the Olympics.
John is one of only 25 worldwide chair umpires at the Gold Badge level and is Australia’s top-ranked chair umpire.
ACT Basketball referee Jack Taylor was appointed this year as a FIBA licensed official until 2023, which means he is licensed to officiate international games at all levels.
Other officials associated with Canberra include UC Capitals player Michelle Cosier who has continued her basketball career as a basketball referee.
Ben Williams, now retired, remains one of Australia’s most credentialed soccer referees. He was a FIFA-listed referee from 2005 to 2016. His career highlights include being the first Australian appointed to control a second-round match at a men’s World Cup. He achieved this in Brazil in 2014.
Fellow Canberra soccer referee Allyson Flynn has an equally impressive record, including officiating at the women’s World Cups in 2011 and 2015.
The ACT has produced more than its fair share of top quality hockey umpires, including Goulburn’s Kristy Robertson. Kristy became an internationally accredited umpire in 2018.
In 2017 Canberra cricket umpire Simon Lightbody became the first umpire from the ACT to be appointed to the National Umpire Panel in its current form.
There are many more not mentioned here, but the message is clear; there is an impressive list of sportspeople who have made a career of officiating through their involvement in Canberra sports.
But despite this impressive list, many sports at this time are struggling to find referees and umpires. Perhaps if we celebrated the achievements of our match officials in the same way that we celebrate the achievements of our sports players, then many more would be attracted to officiating as a career choice.