JUST like a lot of the great refereeing stories over the years, Joshua Durand’s time in the stripes started with a flyer on the wall.
He’d finished playing a game at Nunawading Basketball Stadium and the poster caught his eye for the same reason as many juniors – the chance to earn some money by refereeing the game you love. Why wouldn’t you run the lines for a bit of pocket money after all?
This carrot dangled in front of so many referees is just the starting point though. For Durand, and thousands of referees like him throughout the country, it opens a door they never want to shut as the opportunities, camaraderie and passion to improve takes hold.
For Durand, that gateway was opened only six years ago but he can’t see himself giving up his refereeing as amazing opportunities have started coming his way.
“I always played basketball and dad saw a flyer up saying you could make some money as a referee, so I thought I’d give it a go,” Durand said. “I just fell in love with it straight away and haven’t really looked back.”
So I started reffing six years ago at Nunawading Basketball Stadium – did my green-shirt there and progressed all the way up to an A Grade referee and Junior Panel.
“I’ve been to three Classics and this will be the fourth one coming up.
“I was also lucky enough to go to the Under-14 Club Championships last year in October at Dandenong and that was a really cool experience.
“I really enjoyed it and got to meet some interstate referees, referee coaches, teams and players; everything that comes with it; the Classic was an awesome experience and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”
A former MUVJBL player with Warrandyte and Doncaster, Durand loves the game through-and-through, but knows his best value on the court is on the other side of the whistle.
“I love the challenge of being a referee,” Durand said. “There’s always so much pressure on, especially in high-intensity games – and I think I’m the type of person who loves a challenge and loves something to work for and to strive towards new goals.
“I try to play… but I think I’ve learned over the last couple of years I should hang up the boots and just stick to refereeing.
“I’ve always been involved in basketball as I used to coach one of the local teams at Nunawading… so I’m always in and around basketball and basically have been for my whole life.”
Durand is moving through the ranks and ticking the boxes along the way – earning his A Grade referee certification, moving onto Junior Panel and starting to earn his place amongst the MUVJBL and Big V refereeing community.
It’s all part of the greater pathway that everyone in basketball takes. It’s not just the players and coaches that move up the ranks into the senior leagues and higher competitions as our referees move through that natural progression as well.
“Knowing the pathways in refereeing and knowing where it can go to keeps me motivated,” Durand said. “I was lucky enough to do the under-16 gold medal boys game at a Classic two years ago and getting that appointment really showed me what refereeing could be like and what really, really good basketball is like seeing it up close.
“I knew then I wanted to referee this level a lot more often than once a year, so I put a lot of effort to see just how much I could improve.
“I feel like it’s all summed up in the Under-14 Club Championships where I got the women’s gold medal game in front of a full house at Dandenong, with two teams that hadn’t lost in about 18 rounds, and that was a fantastic game.
“I think every game I referee, whether it’s a domestic game or a really important under-18 MUVJBL game on a Friday night, I try to referee it like that under-14 girls game where there are 3000 people in the stands and you’ve got all this pressure and that you’ve got to get it right as an official.”
The refeering community also keeps Durand focused, motivated and energised as he has his mates around him at any given moment to help him through the next game, the next tournament and even in the midst of a game for the next call.
“Referees have great mateship,” Durand said. “There’s more than one referee on the court so whether you’re working in a two-person or three-person mechanic… there’s always a team of officials out there including the scoretable officials and the stats as well.
“You make some great friendships out of refereeing – one of my best mates I met through reffing and we’ve become really close, so I think being a referee is a fantastic way to get out and meet new people and be part of a lot of different life experiences.
“I think it’s one of those things were I don’t think you’re ever too old to be a part of it or too young to start up.
“It’s one of those sports that once you’re in it at a certain capacity – whether as a coach, a player, referee or as a spectator or parent – you always come back to it and it’s a sport that really connects people.”
The magic of a pathway is watching the road ahead be laid out for you by the people of previous generations. For Durand, he admires the hard-work and skilfulness of the likes of John Chapman and other internationally accredited referees throughout Victoria. Being able to watch the best perform at the elite level isn’t just reserved for the players and coaches after all.
“There are definitely a few referees I look up to, one of those is John Chapman who is from my association at Nunawading,” Durand said. “He’s obviously a FIBA and NBL official and he’s been through the ranks of MUVJBL, Big V and SEABL and has now taken it as far as he has made it.
“The opportunities he gets to do – to go away to FIBA Oceania tournaments and the University Games – these awesome opportunities thanks to basketball.”
For Durand the road he wants to travel starts with this weekend’s National Junior Classic and his invite to the under-16 national championships, held on the Sunshine Coast this July. It’s all part of an on-going goal for Durand to continue his improvement and hone the craft even further.
“I guess my short term goals for this season and any season is to continually improve and to make sure I’m putting in the effort and getting those results,” Durand said. “My short term aspirations this year are to get into MUVJBL finals at the end of the year, hopefully get appointed to a Big V final and the big one for me is that I’d love to go to under-16 nationals – that would be a really awesome opportunity.
“Long term goals are to go onto SEABL, WNBL and the NBL – but for now I’ve got to focus on getting to the next step and reffing the next game.”
Our refereeing community works extremely hard to officiate the National Junior Classic and it’s important to remember the crucial role they play throughout the tournament. Whether it’s Durand or any of the other referees out there on court this weekend, value their work and respect their position here at the National Junior Classic.