For Sean O’Connor, refereeing isn’t just about him getting out on the park. But also helping the next generation find their way in the game.
Northern NSW Football is celebrating Newcastle Permanent Referee Recognition Week from July 20 to 26, thanking the wonderful match officials who make playing football across northern NSW possible.
O’Connor started refereeing MiniRoos as a 10-year-old in 2007. He joined Newcastle Football referees three years later before becoming a NNSWF Premier referee in 2018.
“I got started refereeing as I wanted to start earning money and refereeing was a way for me to run around, be active and also earn some money while enjoying what I love: football,” O’Connor said.
“As I am an instructor and an assessor as well as a referee, I love seeing young referees progress and improve and you feel great yourself when you have contributed to that development.
“As for myself, I love meeting new people and players. Refereeing has also given me the chance to build confidence and resilience.”
O’Connor, who still plays All Age football with Cooks Hill United, named the NEWFM Northern League One under-17s grand final in 2018 as his biggest game as a referee so far.
The 23-year-old wants to continue to improve his own refereeing and move up the ranks into senior Premier competitions and, as a mentor, wants to improve accreditations to help develop other referees and see them grow as match officials.
“To be able to officiate in my first year as part of the NNSWF pathway in a grand final was a reward for my hard work that year to improve and contribute more to football,” O’Connor said.
“Challenges and refereeing are always linked, whether it is a hard game or there are admin issues which stop you creating new ideas and development for other referees. However, it is through these obstacles that referees can improve and become a stronger person through it.
“Refereeing gives people the chance to meet new people, improve fitness and knowledge of the game you love, earn money and develop your own skills to the elite level which gives opportunities for bigger games and travel opportunities.
“My biggest influences as a referee are the coaches and mentors that have helped me on and off the pitch. Whether it was to motivate me to keep on refereeing when I thought about giving it up, or constant positive feedback to keep encouraging me to get better, it really helped.
“My best memories refereeing would be making new mates and being able to give back to football. Through refereeing I have met many people and been able to make new friends and also help young refs become better which always makes you happy.”