Top honours for Queensland referees at Sydney Water Polo Youth Festival

Alongside the 149 athletes who competed at the Sydney Water Polo Youth Festival, three Queensland referees were also poolside gaining invaluable experience during the international tournament. We caught up with Stevie Yule, Bella Andersson, and Dan Esperon to find out more about their refereeing careers and how the Sydney Water Polo Youth Festival has helped them develop as referees.

Congratulations on a fantastic tournament! You’ve all made the transition from player to the referee, why did you decide to don the whites poolside?

“For me, I was at the pool all day on Saturday, so I figured that I may as well start refereeing. From there I started going to club and state nationals and then onto National League.” said Dan. “Yeah, for me refereeing was a good way to stay involved with the sport and earn some pocket money. You can start refereeing in the Brisbane Comp from 15, which is pretty cool.” added Bella. For Stevie, injuries were the main factor, “Similar to Bella, it was another avenue within water polo and injuries limited how much polo I can play. It was an opportunity to stay in the game and make a difference.”

There were some great games especially those involving the international teams, who play a very different style of water polo. How did you adapt to those styles and how have they helped you develop?

“It’s great to see the international teams competing in Sydney, the Thais and the Indonesians play a really different style to what the Australians and even the Kiwis play. It’s a lot faster and there is a lot more skill to it, so that’s been great to watch” said Dan. For Stevie, the tournament has been a great learning experience. “Being an international tournament, it has allowed me to see the game differently and see different styles of play. I’ve learnt that I need to adapt to their styles and still implement the rules of the game.”

“Yeah, I think the international teams bring a different style of play to what we are used to seeing, especially with the Queensland and New South Wales teams. As good as it is for the players to experience different styles of play, it’s also good for us as it makes us more adaptable to different situations in the game.” added Bella.

The tournament was also an opportunity for the referees to mentor the younger referees involved with the Sydney Water Polo Youth Festival, whilst being mentored by senior referees and delegates. “We don’t usually get the exposure in Brisbane to all of the international referees, so it’s really good to have one of them sitting on the table at every one of your games. I’ve been challenged in the U20s competition, especially with the kick-outs and the penalties and differentiating between what’s what, knowing when to allow advantage and what’s too heavy, because we don’t experience that all the time in Brisbane.” said Bella.

It was great learning experience for Stevie, “I guess the main thing that I have picked up from the delegates and from the games is seeing the different circumstances in which incidents happen in the pool and approaching them with a different mindset. I’ve also learned that I can react differently to call or when I make a call.”  “For me, it’s been good refereeing with the young refs from NSW and being able to pass on some of my knowledge to them.” added Dan.

Throughout the week there were fantastic games across all age groups but for Stevie, his favourite match was “the Thailand v QLD Maroons Junior Women’s match. That was my first exposure to their style of play, which is very different. I guess also being able to referee the QLD Maroon girls, which is a rare occurrence for me, was something I really enjoyed.” Refereeing with Stevie was a highlight for both Dan and Bella. “The NSWIS v Thailand game with Stevie was my favourite game, I felt really comfortable refereeing with someone I know so well especially because it was a challenging game.” said Bella, whilst the NSWIS v NSW Blues was the highlight for Dan.

The reward for consistent, high-quality refereeing was being able to call the Gold Medal matches for the Junior Men’s (Dan) and Women’s (Bella and Stevie) matches.  “Every tournament we referee, we go there wanting to perform well and ref the gold medal games. It’s the reward for doing a good job and that being recognised by your peers. For all three of us to ref the Gold Medal matches, we ended the tournament on a high note, it was the icing on the cake and we’re aiming to share that experience with upcoming refs in the local competitions.” said Bella.

So what advice do Stevie, Dan and Bella have for young referees or for those who are interested in refereeing? “If you’re interested in refereeing, the best thing you can do is talk to your club as they will be able to organise a course for you and help you develop. The Winter Comp is coming up and that will be a great opportunity for refs who have done their courses to gain some experience.” said Dan. “Yeah, talk to your club and see if you can referee training games as there is less pressure and you can get feedback from the coaches as well. I found that with Team QLD warm-up games at Knox allowed me to get into the rhythm of the game, so I reckon training games are the way to go.” added Bella.