In the first edition of Behind the Whistle, Football Queensland (FQ) caught up with South West Queensland referee Kirralee Bronkhurst to get an insight into her experiences as a young match official and her return to the game after open heart surgery in November 2020.
Behind the Whistle will shine a spotlight on talented match officials from across the state who are excelling in their refereeing.
20-year-old Bronkhurst became a referee three years ago and has participated in the FQ Community Cup tournament since 2018.
The enthusiastic referee has shown commitment towards helping young players develop skills for the game.
“Participating in the younger divisions is one of my many highlights as a referee,” Bronkhurst said.
“You have them at the start of the season when they are still learning, so you have the opportunity to provide guidance along the way and watch them grow as players.”
When asked what she enjoys the most about refereeing, Kirralee spoke about how supportive the community is.
“It’s such a big family and it has really helped me with my confidence both on and off the field.”
Bronkhurst, who has been playing football for 14 years and decided to complete a referee course in her final year of high school, is hopeful about the future for women and girls in refereeing.
“I noticed there were not many female referees in my town, so I hope to encourage other girls and women to join as well,” Bronkhurst said.
“I really believe we can build a good community for female referees and that will encourage others to join as well. I definitely see it growing and hopefully it will continue to grow for girls and women in the future.”
After recently undergoing open heart surgery in late November, Bronkhurst is now back refereeing for U15 and U16 NPL in Toowoomba.
“Recovering from open heart surgery has been a mental struggle,” Bronkhurst said.
“I have realised that it’s about pushing yourself and finding the motivation to get back into shape. I’m happy that I can return to fitness and continue doing what I love.”
Words: Charlotte Monteath