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Ref Lauren is the boss

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Lauren Riddel from Miners Rest, who was nominated by Football Federation Victoria.

A finalist in the Young Volunteer of the Year is Lauren Riddel from Miners Rest, who was nominated by Football Federation Victoria.

Lauren,17, is an active Football Federation Victoria (FFV) match official and a staunch advocate of referee education.

Despite living in Ballarat, she dedicates many hours travelling to Melbourne to conduct her work. And her contribution across many levels of referee development is remarkable. Lauren is a key member of the FFV’s Referee Development Days, and participates in female focus groups to help empower female referees in the state. She also inspires the next generation of up-and-coming match officials, as a member of the FFV Referee Youth Council and the FFV Referee Talent Pool, and a referee mentor at the Boys and Girls FC football tournaments. Lauren’s involvement in various events and committees has seen her at the frontline of referee development, actively advancing female referees and match officials in regional Victoria. Lauren said she used to play football (soccer) so knew a bit about the game and there was always her dad, Stewart, an umpire of 25 years, to fall back on. She has been umpiring for three years but it was not something that she actively sought out, she explains, “At first I was going on a charity trip to India and I needed to raise $7,000 to go on this trip but how do I do that? And dad said why not referee for a bit?”

Asked whether she would like to take umpiring further her answer is a definite yes. “I have a few mentors in refereeing and I want to see how far I can take it. I hear so many inspirational stories, I met so many people, so many great people,” she said.

“The sport has grown so much in Australia. We have 100 female referees in Victoria and this time last year there were 50, players have increased by heaps, as well.”

Lauren said her dad doesn’t mind being her taxi driver to games and it was great when they managed to umpire a match together “where dad refs in the middle and I do the line and its really good.”

“I’m so lucky to have my dad doing it with me because they will send you to places like Maryborough or somewhere like that and it’s like can I get a lift?” she said.

Lauren smiles and laughs easily but admits to being nervous about attending the awards and making sure she sticks to the dress code. Stewart is clearly proud of his daughter and says Lauren’s nomination “is excellent”.

“Her nomination is about promoting women in soccer, and its certainly given Lauren a boost and the opportunity is there for all girls.

“Lauren is an example that the program is working and it’s a real positive. “Umpiring is a real outlet, its exercise and you get paid for it – and it’s good (for me) to have someone there.”