Two Tauranga referees performed with distinction at the Kanga Cup in Canberra this month.
Jared Lamberth, 18, and Robbie Maris, 15, were selected by the WaiBOP Football Referee Committee to travel to Canberra and be part of the Kanga Referee Youth Academy (KRYA).
The Kanga Cup is the largest youth football tournament in the southern hemisphere with boys' and girls' age groups ranging from U9 to U18. Teams attended from Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.
The intention in sending referees to KRYA is to provide opportunities for young, talented officials to travel abroad, experience football at different levels and further their development.
Lamberth and Maris refereed two to three matches per day, were watched and coached by referee coaches, had mentoring sessions taken by current and former FIFA officials and stayed with the other match officials at the Australian Institute of Sport during the week.
"It is an intensive week, where Jared and Robbie effectively lived the experience and gained insights into life as a professional referee in a tournament environment and, along the way, make new connections and friends," WaiBOP Football referee development manager Mark Hester said.
The boys' excellent performance during the tournament saw them appointed to finals.
Maris was appointed referee of the U14 boys' final and Lamberth assistant referee for the U18 boys' final.
"They represented themselves as well as WaiBOP very well during the week and were recognised with important appointments," Hester said.
"Both Robbie and Jared have shown promising starts to their referee careers and this experience could be a launching pad for accelerating their development."
Lamberth and Maris have benefited from starting their journey with the WaiBOP Youth Referee Academy.
The environment of the youth academy is designed to help introduce young referees to the role, with coaching and mentoring appropriate for them. They are provided opportunities to officiate at appropriate levels and progress as their experience and confidence improves.
Many youth academy referees are involved in AIMS Games each year as well as the Weir Rose Bowl tournament in October.
The WaiBOP Youth Referee Academy has produced some very promising referees, most notably Ashley Wilson, 18, who started when he was 14.
Wilson is now a familiar face on the top regional league the Loaded WaiBOP Premiership, as well as refereeing regularly in the Northern Region Football League (NRFL).