The contest between ladder leader Canberra FC and equal-fourth placed Tuggeranong United FC at Deakin Stadium on Sunday afternoon (30 August) finished in a hard-fought 1-1 draw, but it was a history-making contest with referees Georgia Ghirardello and assistant referees Lauren Hargrave and Delfina Dimoski becoming the first all-female referee team to officiate a Capital Football match.
Georgia Ghirardello has 13 years’ experience as a referee, having spent two seasons in the Westfield W-League as an assistant referee before stepping into the middle for the first time during the 2019/20 season.
She encouraged others to pick up a whistle and give refereeing a go.
“Seize the moment,” Ghirardello said. “Refereeing football is fun, pick up the whistle and it’ll blow you away.”
Ghirardello thanked everyone who had supported the trio over the years.
“Lauren, Del and I are examples of what can happen when girls from grassroots football are supported and nurtured by the community around them. I’m lucky to be on the pitch with two of the best referees in Canberra.
“I see them training hard week in week out, putting in the hours, so when moments like this happen, it feels deserving and that we have been recognised.”
Ghirardello said having female referee role models like fellow Canberrans Allyson Flynn and Nia Southwell had proved inspirational to the trio. Flynn ran the lines at the 2016 Rio Olympics and was also selected as an assistant referee for the semi-final between Germany and Canada. Southwell has refereed the National Women’s League and Canberra’s local competition for several years.
“We are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us,” Ghirardello said. “This is a first of many more games where you’ll see a full female referee team on the NPL1.”
Lauren Hargrave, who made her Westfield W-League officiating debut in 2016, was also the central referee in the first female refereeing team for the NPL1 Men’s competition in Tasmania last year.
Hargrave said the appointment was a reflection of the strength of female referees in the ACT.
“If I reflect back 10 years, I genuinely would have never contemplated all-female refereeing teams in men’s NPL,” Hargrave said. “I am excited to see regular all-female refereeing teams in men’s NPL1 matches as well as what other boundaries in sport can be broken.”
Delfina Dimoski, who has also been an assistant referee in the Westfield W-League for the past eight seasons, is one of Canberra’s finest referees and was awarded NPL Women’s and NPL Men’s Referee of the Year in 2019.
“I feel privileged to be part of this trio,” Dimoski said. “I feel that each of us in our own right is an accomplished match official but this allows it to be showcased as a complete package.
“I always come back to ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ – so the three of us together on this game will give local female match officials something to aspire to.”
The referee team believes their appointment shows the strength of the referee pathway in Canberra.
“This moment demonstrates the strong refereeing pathways for women in Canberra and gives us an opportunity to reflect on those who have helped to break down barriers in these pathways,” Hargrave said.
“It is also a reflection of how strong together we are as a community supporting itself,” Ghirardello added.
“The referee pathways in Canberra are competitively one of the best in Australia. We have a lot of individuals with experience as referees and assessors in the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League, all the way up to FIFA.”
The Capital Football referee team is led by Mark Hester and Adam Powers who create mentorships, run the cadet and academy programs, and organise education sessions and opportunities for prospective referees.
“We have access to excellent mentors and this year we have run women’s-only education sessions and have a women’s-only referee support group led by senior females,” Dimoski said.
“All of these factors lead up to ACT having four females currently on the Westfield W- League, which are great stats for a small federation.”