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TGSS! - National Officiating Scholarship Part 5

I have to admit, TGSS began for me several months ago, with an e-mail from Wolfey offering me a place on the 4 person referee staffing committee. Along with Harry Spot'er, Kernel Panic and Rowan de Boate, I spent weeks in a google doc having discussions about the skills and strengths of Australia's referees - between the four of us, we had direct experience with at least 90% of the applicants.

I was also made aware a few days before the tournament started that apparently the referee and NSO staffing had been very different in style. Staffing itself was done via a couple of video chats - on the ref side, the chats involved a lot of silence.

'Okay, who do we want in this position?'
'...what about...X person?'
'I was JUST thinking that!'

Apparently the NSO side was more of a video chat while all three staffers attempted to build 'dream' crews and poached officials from each other - much more lively, by the sounds of it!

Nonetheless, we arrived at the tournament ready and raring to go, and we actually had very few roster issues throughout the weekend (the refs, at least, I can't speak for the poor NSOs).

The night before Day 1 of the tournament, I cooked pizza for my roommates and some friends - something that went down extremely well! Home-made pizza is, in my opinion, an ideal pre-event meal - full of carbs, protein, just a little bit of fat, and a whole lot of hearty good-feelings.

My first day found me as a crew head referee for a Division 1 group which included Canberra, Brisbane City Rollers and South Seas. My crew gelled extremely quickly, and spent all day improving - I found most of the feedback that I needed to give was around the small tweaks to make a better referee - positioning, the cadence of your voice etc.

Most of my crew then followed me into a quarter final between Adelaide and Sydney (both teams already having had a 'last few minutes' scare earlier in the day). 'Heated' doesn't even begin to describe that game - both teams are reputed for playing a very physical style of roller derby, and from the first whistle the roller derby was fast and intense. An hour of gameplay later, Sydney had prevailed and a very long first day was done and dusted.

Day 2 had four Australian referees acting as 'track supervisors' - in effect track 'head refs', off skates providing feedback and guidance to the Division 2 crews that were officiating that day. I found this enlightening for myself, let alone for the crews I was leading - reading how well a crew was gelling and picking out items for them to work on - which for one crew might be fundamental 'skills based' corrections, while for another crew might be more aimed at fine-tuning. It was, again, an enormously long day, but being able to see the progress made by certain officials from morning through evening was really quite impressive.

The most other notable event of Sunday was an impromptu meeting with Grace Killy and Allasin Sane from the WFTDA - I just happened to run into them at the same time as I ran into the Sun State WFTDA Skater Reps, and half an hour later we were all still talking. The conversation was unbelievably productive, talking mostly around our difficulties with finding teams willing to play sanctioned games against us in order to obtain an initial ranking, and the overwhelming impression from the two WFTDA board members was that they genuinely felt our concerns - all they needed was more information in order to decide how best to approach the issue. It gave us so many ideas as a league to help progress roller derby and WFTDA membership in Australia - watch this space!

Finally dawned Day 3 - semi-finals and grand finals for Divisions 1 and 2. I found myself on an absolutely stellar crew, with all three Australian certified refs on the inside of the track (Harry Spot'er - or as he's more recently known, 'Cornish' - at head referee, myself at inside pack and Rollbar at jammer referee). This crew was ear-marked for the grand final, but first we had to get through an intense semi-final between Sun State Roller Girls and Canberra. The crew gelled with a speed that reflected the skill level of each referee - immediately operating like a well oiled machine. This gelling was then emphasised with a crew lunch - even if we did have to wait for the restaurant to open - oh, to be so hungry so early!

One of the highlights of the weekend was the opportunity to be evaluated by Grace Killy for Monday's two games - not only submitting the evals to WFTDA, but also generously opening up her feedback to us specifically, so that we could immediately implement anything she raised.

My specific feedback was mostly about my body language - while I've worked hard on a 'poker face' in big games, it appears that I still have movements like 'whistle twitch' which give away when I'm uncertain or thinking about certain penalties a little too much.

One impromptu evacuation later, it was game time - grand final time, that is! The two finalists from the previous two Slams, Victoria and Sun State, met again in a game that was intense from the very first whistle (I believe I issued my first penalty approximately 3 seconds into the game). The pack play in this game was unbelievable - bridges stretching forwards and backwards, a pack nearly impossible to define shifting up and back, and Spots and I both frantically working together to cover as many things as possible.

From the rare times I looked at the scoreboard, the game was clearly tight, and swung back and forth. From the gameplay alone, it was clear to see that the teams were incredibly well matched and close in skill. But what I was most proud of was the hard work of the officials in the game - never did I see a ref 'off their game', never did I see a bad call, or a moment of being lost. These referees well and truly earned their place on the grand final, and proved their skills in the most intense game I have ever had the privelige of refereeing.

The next couple of months will be pretty quiet from me - but come late August, I will be in America attending PLAYOFFS! No official news yet regarding appointments etc, but in any case, the networking and derby-experiencing opportunities will be most excellent!


**Thankyou to Richard Tompsett for all images in this piece

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