The Westfield FFA Cup is renowned for putting local clubs and players under the spotlight but the competition is also proving a winner in unveiling a host of quality female referees.
As much as the Westfield FFA Cup provides local clubs and players the exposure and opportunity to play against the big teams in the Hyundai A-League and be shown to a national audience on Fox Sports, they are not the only ones benefitting from the interest and hype the competition has generated.
In the first three match days of this year’s Round of 32, a number of FFA’s aspiring and talented female referees have been given the responsibility to make the big calls both as referees and assistant referees.
FFA Director of Referees, Ben Wilson, says it is important to acknowledge that these female match officials have earned the right to be appointed to these matches and that it is certainly no token gesture.
“The Westfield FFA Cup is a stepping stone for female match officials to progress towards the Hyundai A-League,” said FFA Director of Referees, Ben Wilson.
“Significantly, to be appointed to Westfield FFA Cup matches, these match officials are already officiating in the men’s PS4 NPL competitions in their respective states and have met the stringent fitness test requirements for officiating men’s football.
“Strong performances will not only lead to these women being appointed to more matches as the Westfield FFA Cup progresses, it will lead to them being considered for the upcoming Hyundai A-League season.”
Sarah Jones, who is already a member of the Hyundai A-League Assistant Referees panel, and Joanna Charaktis, were both given the nod to be assistant referees for Round of 32 matches, the latter running the line during Heidelberg United’s upset win over Perth Glory.
Charaktis will also feature this Wednesday night after being named as an assistant referee for the local Victorian derby between two former Westfield FFA Cup semi finalists – Hume City and Bentleigh Greens.
Also on Wednesday night, Katie Patterson will officiate the match at Sydney United Sports Centre between Sydney United 58 FC and FNQ Heat. Two years ago Patterson, who is also a Management Consultant, was in charge of a Round of 16 five goal thriller between Rockdale City Suns and Melbourne Victory.
Casey Reibelt made her Westfield FFA Cup debut with the whistle in last week’s match between Gold Coast City and Western Knights.
One of the most experienced referees in the Westfield W-League, Reibelt officiated at last year’s FIFA U20 Women's World Cup and also the Westfield FFA Cup Round of 32 match between FNQ Heat and Edgeworth Eagles in 2016.
Regardless of the match she is refereeing, Reibelt says that once she takes the field the key is to just be yourself.
“I think if you are honest, genuine and consistent in your interactions with players, they will know what to expect from you and will trust you,” said Reibelt.
“Referees can be strong, but in my opinion they also always need to remain professional and respectful.”
On Match Day 2, Lara Lee officiated the match between Peninsula Power and last year’s Westfield FFA Cup winners Melbourne City FC in front of over 4,000 people at Dolphin Stadium.
A qualified school teacher, Lee has been refereeing Westfield W-League matches since 2012 and in February last year was offered an Australian Sports Commission National Officiating Scholarship.
Lee has steadily made her way as a highly respected match official, her hard work and dedication saw her rewarded as she was given the nod to take charge of a Round of 32 match in the Westfield FFA Cup, a match that required her to be at the top of her game for.
“We have to make decisions continuously and this can be stressful sometimes,” said Lee.
“I was given advice as a teacher to do the opposite of what your body is telling you to do. I was told to take a deep breath and let your mind become clear. Once you have taken the breath, you can reset and focus on the correct decision to make.
“Fortunately, my profession works well with refereeing life as a lot of our skills as a referee is transferable to teaching and my employer is very supportive. This makes it easier to balance work, personal life and refereeing.
Lee believes the most important trait for a referee is integrity which ultimately leads to gaining respect of coaches and players regardless of which competition it is in and whether they are male or female.
“In a game where decisions influence outcomes, it is most important to call what you see; to be honest and not guess what we see. This builds trust in players and coaches,” said Lee.