As Brisbane City FC and SWQ Thunder took to the field for the 2023 Macca’s™ FQPL 1 Women Grand Final last weekend, it was a young match official from Townsville and graduate of the FQ Referee Academy who led the sides out onto the state’s biggest stage, Suncorp Stadium.
After being selected in the inaugural intake of the FQ Referee Academy in 2020, 19-year-old Page Malau-Aduli’s appointment to one of the state’s premier Grand Finals was a significant milestone for the young official, and a wonderful showcase of the opportunities the referee pathway in Queensland delivers for match officials across the state.
The call-up to ‘Team One’, as FIFA refers to match officials appointed to major tournaments, came as a surprise to Malau-Aduli, who not only officiated the 2023 Macca’s™ FQPL 1 Women Grand Final on the Sunday but also played in her team’s Grand Final on the very same weekend.
“I didn’t expect it at all so it was such a privilege to be selected to do it, such a great opportunity because we don’t get the opportunity to do games at that high level week in and week out,” Malau-Aduli said.
“Because I still play we had our Grand Final the day before so it was a quick turnaround, but it was such a good opportunity that I was like wow, this is insane.”
The weekend ended up being one to remember for multiple reasons for Malau-Aduli, who helped her side to a win on penalties in the Macca’s™ FQPL Northern Women Grand Final before taking to the field at Suncorp Stadium in an experience she describes as “surreal.”
“I don’t know what I was expecting because I’ve never been to Suncorp Stadium before, but we got there and we just walked out onto the pitch and it was insane to just look around and see all the seats,” Malau-Aduli said.
“And for some reason I didn’t realise there’d be a screen as well, so sometimes I’d make a run and then I’d look up and there’s just a screen replaying the game and it felt so professional.
“Even walking out with the teams and grabbing the ball and facing the crowd, everything felt surreal to be honest.”
For the young referee who regularly officiates in the Macca’s™ FQPL Northern Men competition, a particular highlight of the experience was how well she and her referee team were able to work together throughout the Grand Final.
“I haven’t officiated in that league before and so when I went there, I think the teamwork [was a highlight], because I had my team which was my two ARs and my fourth official and they’re all based in Brisbane,” Malau-Aduli said.
“They’ve done these teams before and seen how they play, and just the way we were able to work as a team, they could help me in the gaps that I had in my knowledge and us working together every step of the way; that was probably the highlight, just being able to do that and feel like we were the third team out there which was really cool.”
Football Queensland formed its Referee Academy in 2020 to provide promising and dedicated young match officials in each region the opportunity to gain valuable advice from experienced coaches as part of a two-year mentorship focusing on technical, professional and physical development.
After a successful stint in the FQ Referee Academy, Page and her twin sister Paula were earlier this year selected for the inaugural intake of the Football Australia Referee Academy alongside four other Queensland match officials as they continue on the pathway to become world-class referees.
“I never really sat down and mapped out these are the steps I want to take, it’s kind of just been getting these incredible opportunities and taking them as we go,” Malau-Aduli said.
“Every little step up that I get to go, there’s so much knowledge and wisdom in the people around us, and so just learning from them; when it was locally learning from our seniors and the ones who came before us, and then in the FQ Referee Academy we had incredible coaches and people around us who were mostly from Brisbane but also a couple of other regional people.
“Now in the FA Referee Academy learning from the people who are above us, and just to keep taking what they have and keep moving forward and hopefully be passing some of that onto the people who are coming after us as well.”
With FA Referee Academy members based across the country, a recent highlight for Malau-Aduli was getting to attend a seminar with A-League referees alongside her peers, while this week she is officiating at the 2023 UniSport Nationals on the Gold Coast alongside sister Paula as part of the FA Referee Academy program.
“We got to meet each other in person which was awesome because I didn’t know over half of the people in the Academy, but then also being there with the A-League referees we saw the people who are at that next step where we’re aiming to go, so that was really cool to see what they’re doing, what we can aspire to do and what they’re learning and try to implement that into our games.”
For up-and-coming match officials across the state, Malau-Aduli believes having aspirations to continue progressing is crucial.
“I think probably for the city referees as well but definitely for regional referees, it can kind of feel like there isn’t really that next step, and I know for me and my sister we definitely never would have thought that we’d get to where we are now,” Malau-Aduli said.
“I guess if I could give one piece of advice to other referees, I would just say have those ambitions and keep pursuing them and don’t give up on them because there is a real pathway there.
“And it’s going to take some hard work and some dedication, but to keep persisting in that and not giving up on it would probably be my advice.”
As for her own goals, Malau-Aduli is excited to see where officiating will take her now that she’s tackled one of the top competitions in the state, the Macca’s™ FQPL 1 Women.
“When it comes to refereeing, with my goals I’m kind of just working not necessarily to get to a specific destination but to just keep getting better and improving and becoming the best referee I can be,” she said.
“I’m so grateful for this opportunity and to have been blessed with that privilege of doing the game [at Suncorp Stadium], and so I guess just keep going higher, keep learning more, keep growing as a referee so that at the end of the day I finish my career in refereeing being the best referee I could have been and doing the highest game I possibly could have.”
In the meantime, Malau-Aduli has one final challenge for 2023 as a player, with her Premiership and Championship winning MA Olympic side set to welcome FQPL 1 Women Premiers Brisbane City FC in the Mitre FQPL Champions League Final next weekend.
View details of the Mitre FQPL Champions League Final below.
Mitre FQPL Champions League Final
MA Olympic FC v Brisbane City FC
Saturday, 7 October
Image: Alan Minifie