Grace is holding court

Taree's Grace McCallum will referee at the State Cup to be held at Newcastle this weekend. Photo - Tim Bean Photography.

Taree's Grace McCallum will referee at the State Cup to be held at Newcastle this weekend. Photo - Tim Bean Photography.

GRACE McCallum heads to Newcastle this weekend to referee matches in State Cup basketball.

This will be the highest profile tournament the 14-year-old whistle blower has been appointed to officiate. Or at least she thinks it is.

“I’m not really sure what it is,’’ she said.

“I’ve heard there’ll be teams there from the Sydney metro area and some top country sides. But that’s all I know at the moment.’’

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Basketball NSW informed Grace of her appointment last weekend. It’s understood she is the first referee from Taree to be asked to officiate at the cup.

It continues a busy 2017 for Grace, who only started refereeing two years ago when she answered a call from Taree Basketball to help swell the ranks

COFFS HARBOUR: Officiating the division 1 under 18s Port Macquarie v Ballina match in the Northern Junior League.

COFFS HARBOUR: Officiating the division 1 under 18s Port Macquarie v Ballina match in the Northern Junior League.

“Steve Campbell from Taree Basketball was looking to build up the number of referees we have here, so I put my hand up,’’ Grace explained.

State Cup matches will be split between Newcastle and Maitland this weekend.

Grace will be at Newcastle, where she’ll control under 12s and 14s fixtures.

Basketball takes up a fair chunk of her spare time. Grace plays in the Taree junior and senior competitions on Tuesday while she is also a member of the Taree Tornadoes under 16s side, playing in the Northern Junior League.

She’s away most weekends either playing or refereeing, although the representative season is now officially over. Grace, along with fellow Taree referees Bethany Macdonald and Ben Williams, controlled matches on the finals weekend for the northern league earlier this month. Grace has also been in charge of Country Premier League fixtures – the most prestigious competition for country teams.

While she’s happy to referee any age group, Grace concedes she relishes the challenge of controlling matches involving under 18 teams.

“The pace is quicker and the skill level is greater,’ she said.

PORT MACQUARIE: Grace at work in the Northern Junior League representative competition controlling the division 1 under 18 semi-final game between Tamworth and Port Macquarie.

PORT MACQUARIE: Grace at work in the Northern Junior League representative competition controlling the division 1 under 18 semi-final game between Tamworth and Port Macquarie.

Refereeing older players doesn’t faze her, nor is she intimidated by them, even though she admits the players tend to tower over her.

“I’m pretty short,’’ she said.

Grace contends that getting the respect of players, no matter how old they are, is the key to maintaining control.

Players are always going to talk back. It’s just a matter of keeping them in control – that’s what the whistle is for. - Grace McCallum

​Grace enjoys playing more than refereeing. 

“But I think I have more of a future as a referee,’’ she said.

Grace concedes that nerves were a constant before a game when she first took up the whistle.

However, she’s more relaxed these days, even going into a high pressure finals encounter.

“I’m a lot more chilled now,’’ she assured.

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