Last month, two Goulburn women became the first locals in more than 30 years to officiate at a national basketball competition.
Rylee Bowles and Kaitlyn Neate have been two of Goulburn's standout referees for some time, and they were rewarded for their skills and dedication with berths at the Australian Country Junior Basketball Cup.
The last Goulburnian to achieve such heights, according to referee program manager for the NSW Southern Junior League, Steve Ruddell, was Chris Shepherd in the mid-80s.
"We haven't had a referees at the Australian Championships in any way shape or form since the mid-80s when Chris Shepherd was running around," he said.
"There's only those two girls and Chris who have refereed at an Australian Championships."
The competition took place in Albury from Monday, January 13, to Saturday, January 18, and featured roughly 900 players, coaches and officials.
"They're starting to find their own way a little bit now," Ruddell said. "Just over the last 12 months they've done their training for their state badges."
"They actually attended the Australian Schools Championships last December in Victoria, [national events are] not uncommon ground for them."
Following her excellent showing at the championships in Albury, where she was selected to umpire the Under 18 Boys grand final, Neate was then the only NSW referee named to attend the Mel Young Easter Tournament to be held in New Zealand this April.
"She's pretty pumped, she's keen to get over there and strut her stuff," Ruddell said.
Meanwhile, Bowles recently returned from a stint umpiring at the Ivor Burge Championship, which is the national-level tournament for intellectually disabled basketballers.
Bowles' strong performance throughout the tournament saw her selected to officiate the bronze medal game, which Ruddell said "puts her in probably top four referees" at the competition.
Now that both women are over 18, they will start officiating the Open Women and Youth divisions in the Waratah League this year.
If the pair continue to show the same dedication to their careers which they have so far, Ruddell believes they have what it takes to make it all the way to the elite leagues.
"I'm sure the girls are looking to climb the ladder, and they may find themselves refereeing WNBL and even international games too," he said.
"Talking to some other senior referees, one in particular is a FIBA-ranked [International Basketball Federation] referee, and he thinks they could go all the way if they apply themselves.
"They've done really well, they're good girls and listen to constructive criticism and apply it to their game. They deserve the rewards they're getting."
Both women have the competitive drive to keep pushing themselves further, and Ruddell said that sometimes those drives get directed at each other.
"I think there's a little bit of friendly banter competition between them too," he said.
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