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Skate of the Anzac - National Officiating Scholarship - Part 3

It was bloody cold (for this Brisbanite) and far too early in the morning to be awake on a public holiday, but here I was walking into the Southern Cross Basketball Stadium in Tuggeranong, Canberra for the Skate of the ANZAC invitational tournament hosted by Canberra Roller Derby League. I was walking through the door as Tournament Head Referee, and my job had actually begun several weeks before, attempting to staff a small number of referees over a large number of games. Several referees were skating three games back to back, and everyone's endurance and mental stamina would be tested - but none more so than the non-skating officials, most of whom were staffed on every single time-slot throughout the weekend.
The tournament consisted of three separate brackets. At the top of the tree was the 'Sanctioned Division' of Sun State Roller Girls, Sydney Roller Derby League and the host league, Canberra. After that was the 'Super Division', consisting of Canberra's B-grade and C-grade teams, Sydney's B-grade team and Ballarat Roller Derby League. Finally there was a 'Skate Division' - the Sydney City SMASH men's team, and three pot-luck teams made up of Canberra skaters, all other tournament skaters, and all other non-tournament skaters. Over the next two days there would be eighteen full length roller derby games, culminating in a grand final for each of the divisions.
The air was full of anticipation for a weekend of roller derby, but for me and the other officials, the anticipation had a different tilt - evaluations. Skate of the ANZAC was the first event in Australia to have several teams from several WFTDA member and apprentice leagues playing each other - a total of seven games over the weekend that were eligible for 'evaluations' which help referees and non-skating officials achieve WFTDA certification!
Before I'd even begun meeting the other officials, my day began with me MacGyvering an evaluation box together - commandeering a box from the skate-shop table, cutting a hole in the top of it, and sealing it up with an abundance of tape to make it confidential.
My first interaction with the officials for the weekend was standing on a chair, making a speech to the room - talking about the difficulties of staffing, and how excellent it was that everyone was willing to pitch in so readily, and to work through their fatigue. Leaving them encouraged and excited, it was time to gear up for the first games of the day - and boy were we starting off with a bang! On track one was the Canberra and Sydney B teams, while on track two the Canberra and Sydney A teams were playing. I lined up in the head ref position for the A-grade game and we were off!
The rest of the day was a blur of logistics, staffing, timing and organisation - we had runners going back and forth between tracks figuring out how much they were 'off schedule' to each other (as we often had officials backing up from one track to the other). The day was not without injuries to the skaters, unfortunately - there was a broken leg, and also a suspected neck injury that led to an entire game being moved over to the warm-up track (a feat that was accomplished in about five minutes flat). At one point there was even a fifteen litre water spill from a broken bucket that needed cleaning and containing - again, something that was managed within minutes.
In terms of my personal weekend - on day one, I reffed four games - two each at head referee and jammer referee - with two of those games being eligible for evaluations. By the end of the day I was exhausted, and my plan for the evening involved dinner and bed.
The weekend ticked over, the games continued to be played and officiated to a high standard, everyone consumed a lot of caffeine and sugar (or...maybe that was just me). I lost one referee to the flu (which I then caught myself a couple of days later) and had to reshuffle some games - yet somehow, it all ended up coming together. And soon enough we were at grand final time.
The first final pitted the Sydney City SMASH men's team against the ANZAC Potluck team - a hard fought game that ended with the SMASH victorious. The second game was Sydney B team vs Canberra B team - another close game that ended with the home team winning by only 22 points.
Then it was time for the grand final between Sun State and Canberra, which I was lined up to head referee. The crew was skilled and reliable, the skaters were poised and ready (having already teased me during the captains' meeting about my 'sexy voice' from spending all weekend yelling), and the game started with a bang - the home team getting out to an early lead. The calls made by my ref crew were accurate, and I personally felt like I was having a blinder of a game. At half time there was only one point in it, with the home team still holding on by a thread. The game continued, and Sun State slowly eked ahead bit by bit. The refs continued to excel, and the final score had Sun State winning by 33 points.
Lining up to shake hands with the teams afterwards, I was quite certain that I'd just reffed my best performance ever. I would like to chalk it up to luck or progression, but I think a fair portion of the credit has to go to the National Officiating Scholarship program and the improvements I've made since starting the program. Not only basic physical improvements like diet, but also better self-awareness, better awareness of others and an ability to read situations and people. I feel more conscious as a referee of my actions, from the smallest to the largest behaviours, and thus I am in control of what exactly I do at any point in time.
Overall the weekend was a roaring success! The sealed evaluation box collected nearly 150 evaluations, and every official developed their skills not just in officiating but in working with unknown officials and building trust and rapport quickly. Huge thanks has to go to Canberra Roller Derby League, and particularly Hatchet and Cherry for their tireless work as tournament organisers. Huge thanks also goes to everyone who completed an evaluation over the weekend - these numbers (plus many more that will be submitted separately) are huge and are so important to our officials in Australia. 

The next two instalments are going to be quite exciting - Part 4 will be based around the Satellite workshop in Brisbane where I get to meet up with the scholarship recipients again, and straight after that will be Part 5 - THE GREAT SOUTHERN SLAM!


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