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We all know those people who go unnoticed and don’t like taking credit for their work.
James Anderson is one of those people at Launceston Touch Association. He continually provides so much knowledge, time and effort to his club and the role he plays with referees in Tasmania more broadly.
We discover his voice as our Bristol Volunteer of the Month for July.
James has played an integral part of the refereeing program for the Launceston Touch Association and Touch Football Tasmania from refereeing himself, to implementing referee policies, delivering referee education courses, and undoubtedly growing the pool and talent of referees that represent Tasmania.
By now we have established James has a passion for refereeing and like many volunteers contributes to the cause without fuss. In more recent times he has been instrumental in supporting initiatives to attract, retain and progress referees in Tasmania.
As our Bristol Volunteer of the Month we speak to James about his journey and the remarkable role he plays in his state.
Congratulations James, can you begin by telling us a little bit about your Touch Football journey?
Thank you to whoever nominated me, I’m proud to have been chosen as this month’s recipient. I started playing touch back in 1991 and have loved the game ever since. Back then I played the game for fitness purposes and to socialise. The game grew on me, and the association was light on referees so I thought I would lend a hand and here I am today, still refereeing!
I’ve been a one club man since 1991, always loyal to Launceston Touch Association and having played many roles from, President, Vice President as well as Referee Director, representative player, and coach and played club touch with the Sharks club and the Socceroos team for 22 years.
It's refereeing for me though, it’s always been a passion of mine and even when I was president of the association, I still made sure to coach and referee, to give back to the association. It’s an awesome association to be a part of and I’m surrounded by great people.
My Touch journey has only been possible through the support of my amazing wife (Audra) and girls (Camryn and Bianca), as I am often away from home Mon – Thursday nights during the Touch season and then for a week for Tournaments a couple of times a year.
What is it about refereeing that inspired you to peruse this element of the game?
It didn’t take me long to realise I was a better referee than player and the association needed referees! I was happy to take the step to learn more about the game - start the journey on the other side. You always need referees, without them the game won’t function, the competitions wouldn’t go ahead and whilst there’s always plenty of players around, I wanted to start my journey as a referee and then bring along many others to share in the joys that being a referee can bring. Sure, it can be tough, but rewarding all at the same time.
It took me a while before I started taking refereeing seriously and wanted to educate myself and move through the ranks. Once my process started, I wanted to bring others along the journey and the last 10-12 years I have been spending time with other referees, coaching and developing them as well. A few years ago, I was able to take on the mantle of state referee director. I enjoy seeing the rewards of developing the kids and being able to give them a pathway to look forward too and a national competition to represent Tasmania at.
You referee on a weekly basis in Launceston, how do you find the game of Touch has changed over the years?
The game has changed dramatically in all my time being involved. Back in the day you had 7-a-side and the rules were there to be abided by wholeheartedly. Penalties were taken on the exact spot they were given away; no advantage was given or play-on calls. So, in that respect the game has changed considerably, it’s faster, better to watch, better to play and of course, for me, better to referee.
Touch is a dynamic sport with genuine athletes playing the game at the highest level. The rules are made to help the game continue and flow, it’s faster than it ever was.
I’m also an athletics coach, where rules are made and very much adhered too. Touch has adapted to be a game for the players and spectators by allowing advantage or play-ons to be called instead of constantly stopping and starting – as a referee it’s great and you must be able to keep up with the pace.
You have played a pivotal role in the implementation of several referee policies in Tasmania, what drives this passion?
Tasmania has a long history of developing players, coaches, and officials but I always felt that we could do more to develop referees in the state having been one myself! So along with Jo Mason, Matt Phillips, we’ve developed a process to show young kids the benefits of refereeing and where this can take you. Jo, Matt and I attend NTL’s on our own, with Jo having refereed at a world cup, being the best Senior Female referee in Australia. So, we needed to develop pathways for our referees, so that more can get these opportunities. There’s the social benefits, tournaments, and courses to be taken and highlighting the achievements of adults representing and performing at the highest level from Tasmania showcasing when you begin the journey as a referee there’s something to gain at every level of the sport.
In recent times we've enjoyed great success with this initiative which is very gratifying. An example of this success is in Tasmania where we have young referees such as Bailey Aziz and Kodey Pendergast coming through the ranks and now there’s multiple benefits, they can see on becoming a referee and how he can develop and progress. This also provides young refs with role models and shows that Tassie has a great pathway for our referees. All this has been achieved through the help of Ken Golden, he is a great asset for Touch and does so much for me and Tassie touch.
How does it feel having helped influence refereeing in Tasmania in the past couple of years?
On a personal level it’s been super rewarding being able to grow the sport from a referee standpoint. Last year we were able to take seven referees to the DoorDash National Youth Championships not because we were forced too under the conditions of entry requirements but because they wanted to attend for development. This has been an issue in the past of trying to rally referees to attend, but now we’re able to bring people along that want to attend, to learn, to enjoy tournaments and for some, to progress to higher levels.
What is your personal favourite Touch Footy memories?
This is an easy one, coaching both my daughters in the same team to a premiership at Launceston Touch and playing in a mixed premiership with them. For one of my daughters, it was her 1st year and what a way to start and for the other it was her 3rd season, but she also won in her first year of touch, so it was a very proud moment for me to be able to coach them both to a victory and share the experience as a family. It is a family sport, whether it is your actual family or the Touch family.
What do you believe has been the biggest improvement or advancement in the sport from your perspective?
From a Tasmanian perspective it’s the referees. We’ve been able to demonstrate and showcase our referees to the country and are proud of who we’re able to send.
From an elite level the sport is far superior than it has ever been before. I believe elite players are getting close to being professional and no longer amateur. These athletes now train for the sport and give all their time too it, Touch Footy is no longer a secondary sport.
Awesome to hear! What is next for James Anderson?
Continue to grow participation in Tasmania, not only from a referee perspective but from a playing perspective. Touch is an amazing sport that offers so much to so many, I want to continue to improve the quantity and quality of our referees and consolidate the good work we already have.
I also want to have more level 5 and 6 referees in the coming years, that’s a big goal of mine. Until recently Tassie only had 1 active 6 and me a Senior 5, so to get another level 5 in Bayley is a great achievement.
Finally, if you were to win the Bristol Paint Volunteer of the Year award and $15,000 worth of prizes towards a home or club renovation – what project comes to mind?
With our club grounds and facilities looked after by our local council, I’d love to give the money to someone in the Touch community who needs a hand, to be able to help and paint their house, to ease a burden.
As our volunteer of the Month, James is now eligible for the Bristol Paint TFA Volunteer of the Year (VOY) Award. The TFA VOY will receive paint and labour to the value of $15,000 for the refurbishment project of their choice, thanks to our friends at Bristol Paints.