Oli Kellett’s refereeing journey began with an unfortunate incident on the other side of the whistle.
The English expat was playing for Box Hill Rugby Club, a club he had played for since arriving from England 9 years prior, when he incurred a serious injury.
“I was 21 and made the switch to refereeing when I was dealing with a shoulder injury,” said Kellett.
“I volunteered to do the Green Shirt program for Box Hill, as back then the club needed to nominate three people to do the course.
“I did the course on the Sunday and by Tuesday I had been given an appointment.”
Since then Kellett has risen the refereeing ranks in Victoria, from green shirt to now claiming the mantle as the #1 referee in Victoria after receiving the Dewar Shield Referee of the Year Award at the 2019 Rugby Victoria Awards.
“It was such a massive honour to receive the award,” said Kellett.
“The players and the coaches are the game and to be picked by them as the referee of the year was very humbling.
“I feel very lucky to continue being part of a game I love through refereeing.”
Kellett’s refereeing career so far has seen him take charge of the Dewar Shield Grand Final for the past five years and the historic Rebels A v Japan Wolfpack match at AAMI Park last year.
There is a number of things that Kellett loves about refereeing but there’s one aspect that stands out above all the rest.
“I love the camaraderie of being a referee the most,” said Kellett.
“I’ve been lucky enough to meet referees from all around the country, and from overseas, through different tournaments.
“The feeling of being part of a team is always there, no matter where the other referees are from.
“The Victorian refereeing community is no different, it’s such a close-knit family.”
Having critiques from time to time comes with the territory of being a referee although Kellett believes that his biggest critique is himself.
“We put a lot of scrutiny on ourselves and learn from our mistakes, so a lot of the pressure and criticism we come under is from ourselves to improve,” said Kellett.
“I don’t have any specific things I do on or off the pitch when it comes to managing any criticism.
“However, if it’s because of a mistake I have made then I will always own the mistake on the pitch with a, “my bad, I got that one wrong” to the players.
“I hope it shows them that I am human and more approachable.”
With all of this refereeing experience so far what would his message be to someone thinking about taking up the whistle?
“Do it, you’ll get to be involved in the game that you love with a great group of people,” said Kellett.
“You might be the only one with a whistle in the middle of the pitch, but you will always be part of a bigger team.”