2017/2018 WNBL Referee Panel

The Eltham Wildcats Basketball Club are proud to congratulate Mitch Hare and Elliot Green who have both been selected to the 2017/2018 WNBL referee panel. This is the first time that two Eltham referees have achieved this honour in the same year and is a tribute to their persistence and hard work as well as their undoubted achievements.

“To reach this level is one of the hardest steps a referee can take, it requires not only excellence of performance but also is driven by state and numerical requirements. To see them achieve this standard is wonderful and to realise that both are still contributing to the Eltham program is even better” said Wildcats Director of Refereeing Steven Chadd.

To celebrate their achievements, we spoke with Mitch and Elliot to discuss their pathway and what it means to them to be selected to the 2017/18 WNBL Referee Panel.

Why did you choose the referee pathway and what inspired you to start?

Elliot: I was lucky as a kid, I tried a wide variety of sports from footy, cricket, tennis, soccer until I finally found basketball. Basketball was indoors out of the winters rain & cold and could be played all year round. I started playing at age 7 and commenced U12’s VJBL as a bottom age. When I was top age U14’s it was obvious that I wasn’t skilful enough, nor tall enough I might add, to make it as a player – so I turned to reffing to earn some cash (and later coaching) to become as heavily involved as possible in my new favourite sport.

How long have you been refereeing? 

Mitch: Since 2002 at Eltham Wildcats Basketball Club – 15 years.

What was the process and things you had to do to get selected on the panel?

Elliot: Firstly, I had to progress through the domestic grading system at Eltham, which had 6 levels back in the day. Now there’s only 3, which is why refs sit on each level for a tad longer these days. I went from a Junior C Grade to a Junior A Grade, then was awarded my Senior C grade (today’s 1C), then 1B and then did the A Grade course and only just scrapped through – I had a poor performance on the final week of A Grade testing, but was strong all the other weeks so I snuck in. That whole process took the better half of 4 years.

That was the beginning, then I nominated and did Junior Panel in 2006 and must have reffed well as I was invited to try out for Big V the following year, 2007. I did a few semi finals and then in 2009 reffed the Vic Youth Champ Women’s Finals series between Eltham & Diamond Valley, boy was there no love lost there! Also was lucky enough to attend five Australian Junior Championships, even slept in on day two at my first champs, whoops tournament over! Reffing the U18 National Boys Final in Perth 2012 with Dante Exum and Ben Simmons playing for Vic Metro and reffing the 2016 SEABL National Women’s Final with Mitch would have to be a highlight.

I started SEABL in 2011, did a SEABL Conference Grand Final in 2013, Big V Championship Women’s Grand Final in 2014, then back-to-back SEABL Women’s National Finals in 2016 & 2017.

Being awarded SEABL Women’s Referee of the Year this year must have put me in good stead for WNBL, however it seems both Mitch & my timing has worked very well as this 2017/18 season sees a reduced panel from 40 to 30 officials, as most of the NBL guys are now only doing NBL (previously WNBL & NBL shared the same panel of refs), so it meant some spots have opened up. It’s now our chance to take this rare opportunity and make the most of it – back to being “The Rookie”!

Who are the people who played an important role in your pathway?

Elliot: The list could go on forever, however definitely Steven Chadd and Laurie Nelsen. We are so lucky at Eltham to have over 60+ years of combined knowledge at the helm of our program, with Laurie being a regular Big V referee coach and Steve entering his 19th or 20th year as an NBL Ref Coach. In the later years, to be able to get together over a couple of beers and enjoy some basketball banter is where I have learnt the most, we have spent considerable time ‘debating’ over different plays and situations into the wee hours of the morning – particularly at Eltham Dandenong Tournament time!

The other person would be Mitch, we did the beginners school together back in 2002 and have had a very ‘healthy & competitive’ relationship ever since, all the way from competing against each other to get the EDJBA ‘A Grade’ Grand Final onto Junior Panel and Gold Medal games at Classic’s (where he has me convincingly covered), to Australian Junior Championships interstate (where I have him easily covered) and now into Senior panel (where we are dead even on SEABL accolades) – we spur each other on to put in more effort and are constantly sending each other video clips of our calls to see what we think to continually develop and fine tune our craft. I look forward to stepping on court with him in the WNBL this year and hopefully NBL in future years.

Mitch: I would like to thank Steven Chadd, Laurie Nelson, Karen Nelsen, Des Buchan and all the support we have got from the Wildcats Club and especially Greg Jeffers. We have always had the support of the club which has been amazing and a lot of other clubs don’t support their referee’s like Eltham does.

What does being a referee at this level mean to you?

Mitch: Honestly, it is absolutely surreal. Growing up in Victoria, there have been plenty of better referee’s than myself (at this point in time in my career) who never made it onto NBL due to many different factors over the past 15-20 years. So I am very humbled to have the chance to referee the pinnacle of basketball in Australia and excited to show that the faith which has been put in me was well placed.

Advice for up and coming referees?

Elliot: I started reffing for cash (and because I enjoyed basketball), getting through the domestic ranks can be frustrating at times – I’ve been to many tribunals during my domestic officiating days. Past that, once you’re into the State System, i.e. Junior Panel the respect levels from Players & Coaches for officials rises drastically. I remember Andrew Gaze coaching U12’s and here I was on my first year of Junior Panel reffing his team – how daunting! As you become more experienced and progress through the State Leagues, the game becomes more enjoyable as the skills of the players increase. You aren’t doing it for the money (although the money is quite good) you’re doing it because you enjoy it, want to get better and you have the very best seats in the house on the floor!

Tournaments are great fun, a chance to get away out of your comfort zone at Eltham to ref some foreign games and forge some friendships is an opportunity I would snap up when it comes around. A group of us still regularly catch up with mates we made during tournaments in Adelaide and Dromana – except now we generally play golf!

Listening to all your referee coaches from domestic Eltham Ref Coaches and Junior Panel is vital if you want to continually develop your skills, you may not agree with all coaches, however we need to listen to their opinions and be respectful at all times – you can choose later in your own time if you want to take their feedback on board or not.

My other comment would be manners, a simply please and thank you to players and coaches from referees goes a very long way and helps break down the barrier of the “us versus them” mentality. Sure you’re going to have the odd members who can be a tad emotive, however you grow a thick skin as a referee and develop important life skills about conflict management that I still use today at work even when having fruitful discussions with the fellas!

Listen, learn, be respectful, be humble and most importantly – enjoy it, most of my closest mates have come from basketball !

Mitch: Get in the gym, look after yourself, your physical health and appearance are one of the most important things. The fitter you are, the better positions you can get to get the right call. If you are fatigued and panting when you get to your spot, you more likely to make the incorrect call. We need to work as hard as the athletes!

Be in the moment, enjoy the game you are doing and work hard on the game you are doing. Every call matters.

Don’t take yourself too seriously, the more you enjoy the game of basketball and have fun while doing it you will continue to referee and get better.

Focus on yourself, be your harshest critic, self-evaluate as much as possible, learn but then move on to the next game.

For more information please visit: http://basketball.net.au/wnbl-referee-panel-selected-for-201718/