In the first edition of Behind the Whistle for 2022, Football Queensland spoke to 14-year-old Brisbane referee Rebekah Dorward about her transition from player to match official and her goal to one day become an accredited FIFA referee.
Dorward began her refereeing journey at school at 12 years of age after being inspired by her older brother, Jarod. The centre-back completed her first referee course at her local club, North Star FC, and soon fell in love with a new aspect of the game.
“I started doing MiniRoos games to earn some quick cash on the side, but over time refereeing has just become a passion of mine,” said Dorward. “From there, I applied to become an outdoor referee and started refereeing some Division 5 games and worked my way up to Division 1.”
Dorward has thrived on the pressure of being thrust into new environments and in 2020 was awarded Brisbane’s Best First Year Youth Referee. In 2021, she stepped up to officiate U13 and U14 NPL Boys games as well as divisional games throughout Brisbane.
“Last season I did an NPL Women’s game as an Assistant Referee and quite a lot of U18 NPL Women’s games to really stretch myself,” she said.
Dorward credits the ongoing support received from legendary referee assessors Lynda Arkinstall and Adrian O’Connor, and FQ Metro Refereeing Appointments Officer Christine Burchnall.
“There’s a lot of referees that have helped me out and I’m very thankful for the community. It’s very welcoming and I love being part of it,” she said.
“I started refereeing at school and Lynda and Adrian were always there for me to give me advice. Christine has put me on games that at first, I was scared to do, but she and Kianna both believed in me. Refereeing boys, sometimes I get overlooked because I’m a girl, but once I’m out on the pitch I try to be calm and collected.”
A former NPL junior at Moreton Bay United and Mitchelton FC, Dorward now has ambitions to become a FIFA match official.
“I do see it as a career one day, but I’m not sure where I want to go at this point. I consider it to be a great part-time job,” she said.
“Right now I’m really focused on possibly becoming a FIFA Referee. I need to go through a few more courses but I’ve been in contact with some Referee Assessors to try and figure out my next steps.”
To that end, the Aspley State High School student says she won’t play football in 2022 in order to focus on refereeing and her schoolwork.
“Refereeing has given me a different aspect of the game. I now see things from a referee’s point of view and as a player I can see the game from both sides,” she said.
“It was hard to balance everything at first, but I’ve really come to terms with it and this year I’m going to just focus on refereeing and studying, rather than playing.
I’m hoping my Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays will be taken up by refereeing. I don’t mind which games or competitions – I just love refereeing.”