​Last weekend we hosted the 2017 Basketball Officials SA’s Awards Evening which saw over 150 referees, officials, volunteers, friends, and families come together to celebrate another great year of basketball officiating in our South Australian competitions.

Amongst these guests was our very own Vanessa Devlin who later in the night spoke to the room filled with aspirational referees, her own mentors, and no doubt, a large group of admirers who look up to Vanessa for all that she’s achieved. Well, those who know of her impressive career that is.

Vanessa Devlin is a silent achiever, however her referee journey is one to be heard.

It all started in 1999 when Vanessa attended a Level 0 Referee course ran by no other than Australian Basketball Officials legend, Greg Love.

From here Vanessa began where most new referees do, Saturday mornings in Basketball SA’s junior competition. For four years she continued to referee at the Port Adelaide Recreation Centre purely because she enjoyed it. It was during this fourth year that she was approached by Rod Ridley, another SA Official’s great, to attend an upcoming National Championship.

Vanessa had no idea what she was getting herself in to, but just like she has her entire life, she accepted the challenge and embraced the opportunity. The incredible knowledge she acquired during her first Championship and the significant positive feedback and encouragement she received motivated her decision to pursue a career as a Basketball Referee.

From medalling at each National Championship since, to receiving two National Female Referee of the Year awards, it is clear to everyone that she had made the right choice.

In 2011 Vanessa was awarded the National Officiating Scholarship, a program conducted yearly involving officials from all sports across Australia. The Scholarship invited Vanessa to attend camps with these officials and undertake focused development sessions. The program asks for each participating official to choose a mentor throughout the duration of the scholarship. Vanessa, proudly in front of the very attentive crowd, stated that it was Carolyn Tsakalos, a FIBA official and an inductee to the Referee Platinum League Hall of Fame, who she asked to guide her in this important stage of her developing career.

Vanessa’s dedication and pure ability was then tested on the international stage when she officiated her first international tournament in Italy. Vanessa told the crowd of how she remembers receiving a phone call during the tournament informing her that upon her return she would be officiating in her very first WNBL game. This then paved the way for what was to be the highlight of her career to date. In 2013, Vanessa achieved her accreditation as a FIBA Official. This opened up new opportunities for appointments to major International Championships of which, of course, Vanessa would then take.

Her first nomination for a FIBA International tournament was to the U18 Men’s European Championship to be held in Turkey in 2014, just the following year. It was at this tournament that Vanessa asked another mentor of hers, Chris Clarke, to attend. Vanessa talked of the nerves she experienced heading to the tournament, and just how different it was officiating overseas compared to the competitions in Australia. She smiled to herself as she remembered the intimidation she felt when she stepped on court to officiate one of the Quarter Final games at the event with the strong European personalities whom she officiated with. She remembered with a grin the way she knew that they would be thinking that she was a “weak little girl” amongst them, but consistent with Vanessa’s typical response to challenges, she “changed their mind”.

Following an encouraging laugh and applause from the room, Vanessa continued to tell her story.

In 2016 she was invited to travel to Malaysia to acquire her international FIBA 3X3 Licence. At the time, Australia was still very new to this style of our game but her lack of knowledge didn’t stop her from taking up yet another incredible opportunity.

It soon became clear to Vanessa that there were two huge differences between 5X5 and 3X3 styles of the game, physicality and mental concentration. Not surprisingly, Vanessa excelled at the international camp and this year she received her first nomination to officiate the U18 World 3X3 Championships held in Chengdu, China. As if this achievement alone was not enough, Vanessa’s commitment to the highest standard of officiating saw her awarded the Women’s Gold Medal game.

Only a short two months later, another invitation to attend the World University Games in Turkmenistan came Vanessa’s way. Another stellar experience to add to her impressive career.

As she tried to wrap up her speech, thanking almost everyone in the room for their contribution to her success as a Referee, Vanessa received a standing ovation from the proud family that is Basketball Officials SA.

Basketball SA are incredibly proud of the way Vanessa has represented our state on the local, National, and International courts, and encourage both young and experienced referees to take up as many opportunities as possible just like Vanessa has done. 

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