For Hilary Osborne it was never going to be a matter of if she’d be involved in football it was more a matter of when and how.
As a youngster, Osborne grew up in a family that loved football. She played with her siblings and her father was the coach of many of their teams. However, at the age of 15 Osborne noticed a change in her love for the game.
“When I was around 15 I noticed that my interests changed a little bit,” Osborne explains.
“I realised that compared to other female footballers my age, my skills were never going to be good enough to play professionally but I didn’t want to leave the sport I’d grown to love.”
“I went along with my dad and we signed up to complete the Level 1 Referee’s Certificate, mainly so I could improve my knowledge of the game to support my dad if he ever wanted to referee one of my sibling’s games.”
After completion of her Level 1 certificate, Osborne and her father were invited to Auckland Football Federation referee meeting nights, and she admits it is something she wasn’t sure if she’d enjoy, with the perception of referee’s in her mind then being ‘old guys’.
“I wasn’t too sure if I’d enjoy the AFF referee meetings, as I had always thought that referees were all old guys and that it wasn’t going to be fun. That opinion changed quickly.”
“I was introduced into a friendly group of youth referees at the first meeting and it persuaded me to continue returning to each meeting after that. This slowly built up my confidence and I offered to referee a few games.”
Osborne has gone from refereeing a few games, to much more than that, including being a match official in the National Women’s League and a handful of New Zealand International fixtures.
“I was invited onto the National Women’s League in 2016 and this involved a selection process and fitness tests which made me think people were recognising I have the potential to go further. I was appointed to every game including the semi-finals and the final,” says Osborne.
While the experience of being a part of the top female league in the country is high up on her highlight’s list, nothing yet has beaten her appointment to a series of New Zealand International fixtures.
“The appointments panel recognised my hard work improving on my performance, and I was offered a series of NZ international games against teams from the United States of America, Papua New Guinea and Thailand. These games have to be one of the main highlights so far. I worked with Annie-Marie Keighley, Sarah Jones and Nadia Browning all of whom hold FIFA badges.”
One day Osborne would like to have a FIFA badge on her shirt like those referees who continue to inspure her to work hard on this path and hopefully become a badge holder too.
“I want to go as far as I can as a referee, to me that is gaining a FIFA badge and going on international football tournaments.
“I’ll just have to keep working hard to get there,” she adds.