First grade her focus
By Ruben Campbell and David Hall - Kiama Independent
Up-and-coming South Coast Group 7 Rugby League referee Karra-Lee Nolan has set her sights on another target this season - officiating first grade before the season ends.
It has been an exhausting year for the 21-year-old as she refereed representative games across the state, including the Country under-14s and 15s at Wagga Wagga and Cessnock.
The Blackbutt resident also officiated in the NSWRL junior representative Harold Matthews and SG Ball competitions as well as the Australian Schoolboys CHS Championship.
She was in charge of the final of the Country under-15s titles and refereed games in the Country under-18s at Wagga, was team captain at the Australian Schoolboys titles and oversaw the repechage final.
She will now round out her representative season by officiating at the Country Cup at Cootamundra and NSW under-16 All Schools Championship at St Mary's.
Nolan has been training with the NRL Academy once a month at Sydney's Olympic Park, and has received advice and encouragement from some of the best in the business.
"The academy is led by Steve Clark and I am mentored by current NRL referee Matt Cecchin; they have given me a lot of great advice.
"Clark was a great referee himself and he was probably the best referee never to get a (NRL) grand final.
"As a member of the Elite program Pathways Program we train with the NRL squad and do a lot of on-field training, work on mind growth, fitness and law enforcement."
Apart from representative league, Nolan also referees regularly in Group 7, where she is consistently appointed to referee reserve grade.
"I get a lot of support from former director of referees Peter Ryan," she said. "Peter's been massive - he constantly encourages me and is always in the background making sure I stay grounded.
"I have learnt a lot about vocabulary, ruck control and how to set a good platform for myself, which is vital when you are in control of a game."
Nolan also developed her own method of responding to criticism from players and fans.
"When I am on the field, it is a place where I am happy and I just block out what has been said to me on the sideline.
"On the field, sometimes it can affect you, but some people don't like people in authority and that's just a fact of life."
She is currently studying for a degree in Physical Education teaching and does part-time work as a teachers' aid.
"I really have to thank my parents and boyfriend Dylan - they come all over the countryside and support me. I couldn't have done it without them."
In the long-term she wants to achieve her dream to referee in the NRL following Belinda Sleeman and Kasey Badger, who are already established first grade touch judges.