The widespread development of club assistant referees could be the rainfall needed to wipe out Football Wagga’s referee drought.
That’s the view of Football Wagga referees coordinator Jason McKenzie, who is eager to see clubs get behind the national referee training scheme in a bid to ease the pressure on overworked officials.
The Football Federation Australia course provides a pathway for non-qualified referees to assist with linesman duties at certain grades and would, in McKenzie’s view, be a catalyst for clubs to take on some of the burden currently shouldered by Football Wagga’s undermanned referee team.
“We’ve been trying to get a similar program off the ground for the last couple of seasons and it’s more important than ever now with the referee shortage,” McKenzie said.
“I think that, with the support of the clubs, it could be really important and I also think it’s becoming apparent to the clubs that we need to do something.”
McKenzie estimated that out of the 58 registered referees active in the region, only six were qualified to referee in the middle of Pascoe Cup fixtures.
Other, often younger, referees were consequently taking on a mountain of work with junior and assistant roles.
“Some referees, particularly at junior level, are doing anywhere between six and eight games a day and that’s too much.”
“You’ll get referees running lines for two junior games before jumping in the middle for an over 35s fixture and then assisting for another two games later in the day.
“It’s too much … and the introduction of club assistant referees would eliminate that workload and allow referees to concentrate on games without the added pressure of fatigue.”
While an inter-club discussion is yet to be had on the matter, at least one club has backed the initiative.
Lake Albert president Andrew Manton is a strong supporter of fielding club assistant referees and is hopeful others will get on board.
“I think referee numbers are one of those things we can help out with and running those line assistant courses for club members is a good idea,” Manton said.
“It’s not like they would be doing first grade games or anything but it would make it easier for more experienced refs to be out in the centre.
“I know that Jason (McKenzie) is a fan of the idea.”
Referee numbers was just one of many topics debated during an informal meeting of Wagga clubs on Tuesday evening that also discussed playing ground availability and dual registration.
No verdict on dual registration was reached.