LOUIS BURKE | Culture | CONTACT
The life of a park footy referee is not always easy, but for referee veteran Ken Oakes (54), the input from keen-eyed parents watching their children play makes his job a whole lot easier.
“If they didn’t keep yelling “Get ‘em onside ref!” I’d honestly forget to do it! God’s people, the lot of them.”
With 25 years of refereeing experience under his belt, Oakes says he respects the game too much to not take into account that he might occasionally ‘have his eyes painted on’ and that it is completely reasonable that an unskilled spectator with a vested interest in one side winning might have seen something he didn’t.
“There was this one time when I blew the whistle at a winger who’d stepped into touch when this woman piped up and said ‘C’mon ref, he was a metre in!’ I immediately reversed the decision and gave the kid the ball back. I was pretty sure he was out but his mum assured me otherwise.”
Beyond enforcing the rules Oakes spent 45 years practising, the veteran referee also appreciates the moral aspects the sideline parents seem to instil in the kids.
“I was speaking to a kid who’d accidentally grappled another player and as he was saying sorry this one dad yelled out ‘DON’T APOLOGISE!’ Just as well he did because I was about to say the same thing but was saved the task thanks to a man who looked like a Reject Shop Chopper Read.”
While other referees disagree with Oakes democratic style of refereeing, Oakes says it makes for a well-rounded experience that teaches kids openly abusing authority figures is the best way to get exactly what you want.
“Ultimately, there’s more at stake for the parents. The kids are there to have fun but no one wants to be the parent of a loser even if they are one themselves.”
“It’s easier just to give them what they want. You never know which one of them is going to turn full Fifita on you.”