Capital Football history is made as all-female referee team officiate NPL1 Men's match

Referee Georgia Ghirardello and assistant referees Lauren Hargrave and Delfina Dimoski made Capital Football history on Sunday afternoon at Deakin Stadium, becoming the first all-female referee team to officiate a Capital Football NPL1 Men’s match.

Georgia Ghirardello has 13 years of referee experience, having spent two seasons in the Westfield W-League as an assistant referee before stepping into the middle for the first time during the 2019/20 season.

Ghirardello thanked everyone who had supported the trio over the years.

“Lauren, Del and I are examples of what can happen when girls from grassroots football are supported and nurtured by the community around them,” Ghirardello said. “I’m lucky to be on the pitch with two of the best referees in Canberra.

“I see them training hard week in week out, putting in the hours, so when moments like this happen, it feels deserving and that we have been recognised.”

Ghirardello said having female referee role models like Allyson Flynn and Nia Southwell had proved inspirational to the trio.

“We are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us,” she added. “This is a first of many more games where you’ll see a full female referee team on the NPL1.”

Lauren Hargrave, who made her Westfield W-League officiating debut in 2016, was the central referee in the first female refereeing team for the NPL1 Men’s competition in Tasmania last year.

Hargrave said the appointment was a reflection of the strength of female referees in the ACT.

“If I reflect back 10 years, I genuinely would have never contemplated all-female refereeing teams in men’s NPL,” Hargrave said. “I am excited to see regular all-female refereeing teams in men’s NPL1 matches as well as what other boundaries in sport can be broken.”

Delfina Dimoski, who has also been an assistant referee in the Westfield W-League for the past eight seasons, is one of Canberra’s finest referees and was awarded NPL Women’s and NPL Men’s Referee of the Year in 2019.

“I feel privileged to be part of this trio,” Dimoski said. “I feel that each of us in our own right is an accomplished match official but this allows it to be showcased as a complete package.

“I always come back to ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ – so the three of us together on this game will give local female match officials something to aspire to.”

The referee team believes their appointment shows the strength of the referee pathway in Canberra.

“This moment demonstrates the strong refereeing pathways for women in Canberra and gives us an opportunity to reflect on those who have helped to break down barriers in these pathways,” Hargrave said.

“It is also a reflection of how strong together we are as a community supporting itself,” Ghirardello added.

“The referee pathways in Canberra are competitively one of the best in Australia. We have a lot of individuals with experience as referees and assessors in the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League, all the way up to FIFA.

“The Capital Football referee team, led by Mark Hester and Adam Powers, are also brilliant in creating mentorships, running the referees Cadet and Academy programs, organising education sessions and providing opportunities for promising up and coming referees.”

“We have access to excellent mentors and this year we have run women’s only education sessions and have a women’s only referee support group led by senior females,” Dimoski said.

“All of these factors lead up to ACT having four females currently on the Westfield W-League, which are great stats for a small federation.”

The trio encouraged others to pick up a whistle and give refereeing a go.

“Seize the moment,” Ghirardello said. “Refereeing football is fun, pick up the whistle and it’ll blow you away.”