Rebecca Durcau has been a Westfield W-League referee since 2009 and also refereed in the Japanese Women’s National League in 2010. She shares some of her insights on being an elite referee in the Westfield W-League.
How did you become involved in refereeing?
I became involved in refereeing after a friend from high school told me about it. She was refereeing at the time and I no longer had a soccer club to play for. I still wanted to be involved in the game so thought I would give refereeing a try. The rest is history.
Can you describe a week in the life of a W-League referee?
A week in the life of a W-league Referee is not a glamorous as it may seem. I train 4-5 times a week depending on match schedules for the weekend, work and personal life. I do 3 sessions of cardio, ranging from speed endurance to agility. I then try and do at least two sessions a week in the gym for injury prevention. Some sessions are also used for practical learning, simulating situations in games and developing the best process to manage each situation.
What do you do to keep a balance between your personal, professional and refereeing life?
If anyone has the secret to achieving this I would love to hear about it! This is something that I really have to work hard at especially in the next few months. Keeping a balance between my personal and refereeing life is made easier for me because I have a supportive network within family and they have been nothing but understanding. Without them I would not be where I am today. When it comes to my professional life, I am still learning as to what is the best way to balance it with refereeing. I am currently a first year police officer with the Queensland Police Service, and they have been nothing but supportive. The QPS have allowed me to referee on several FFA Cup matches during my training, and without that support, I would not have been able to do it. Further, FFA have also been understanding of my new career choice and that has definitely minimised the stress levels.
How do you keep focused during a match and not let emotions influence decisions?
I just remember that our team is the neutral team on the field of play and that any other opinions that are offered during the game are not for our benefit. We are there to do a job and that is to officiate to the best of our abilities and be impartial and honest. If I keep this in mind it helps me not to get caught up in the emotional side of things. Process is also important to me. I have a process in my mind for dealing with incidents that occur during the game and as long as I follow my process and believe in it, it helps keep me focused.
In your opinion, what has been the biggest change in football in recent years?
The biggest change in football that I have noticed is the speed of the game and how it has impacted on the image of match officials. Gone are the days of seeing match officials at the highest level looking like they have just come back from holidays. Match officials now train and look like athletes and so they should as the demands of the game have increased. Team tactics are such now that they are always looking to counter attack from the defence and because of this, match officials are now expected to cover a greater distance at high speed in order to keep up with the attack and be there when play is in the critical area. Not an easy feat when it happens multiple times in 90 minutes.
What is the key to building positive relationships with players and coaches?
The key for me is to always be myself and not change for anyone. If I am the same package every week, players and managers know what they can expect from me and know there should not be any surprises. Being constant and using my personality allows me to build trust with the players and managers to an extent. I also ensure that I am constantly talking to players during the game, letting them know that I am there and if I can see that they have taken exception to something, taking the time to give them my opinion on it. Further to this I ensure that I communicate in a professional manner and draw the line as to what I will accept from players and managers when they wish to speak to me.
What do you consider to be the most important characteristic of an elite referee?
I think the most important characteristic of an elite referee is integrity. Integrity means that I am always honest with myself and others and never cut corners to achieve my goals because these little things can find you out in the end when you are backed into a corner. I also carry this mentality out onto the field of play, if I am unsure about something I never guess because I believe I would be cheating myself and the players, who expect me to give an impartial and honest answer. Having integrity also means that your teammates can trust you to do right thing by them, that when they are in tough situations they know they can count on you to pull them through it.
What match or moment stands out as a highlight in your refereeing career?
The two moments that stand out as a highlight in my refereeing career are when I refereed on the Japanese Women's National League back in 2010 and when I was invited to attend the PGMOL pre-season seminar in 2012 in the UK. These moments have contributed to bettering my understanding of football, to how it is approached and played by different cultures. The Japanese League was very impressive, with their style of play being very tactical and skilful and it was no wonder they went on to win the Women's World Cup in 2011.