As the Darwin rugby season nears finals footy, it’s not just the players who are fine-tuning their skills.
Up-and-coming referee Zoe Grotaers has been identified as one of Australia’s most promising young talents and spent her February working alongside the nation’s leading match officials to hone her craft
Grotaers, 19, tackled the World Rugby Educators course in Melbourne before travelling to Sydney to attend a two-day female Match Official Leadership Program.
It’s a rapid rise for the NT Sevens representative-turned whistle-blower.
“Going down to the educator’s course in Melbourne and then over to Sydney was amazing," Grotaers said.
"This program allows me to go out and referee at a few different comps interstate and hopefully I’ll get to Townsville, Toowoomba and Cairns on exchange and that's an exciting opportunity,” Grotaers said.
“I only got into refereeing at the end of 2019 while on tour for the National Youth 7s – Robbie (NT Referees Association President Rob Taylor) was trying to recruit some more numbers – but it’s become something really important to me.”
“I just love it. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain why I do it, but just being around everyone on the field and involved in a tight-knit group means a lot to me."
Grotaers has become a staple in the NT Rugby scene and says she’s eager to see how far refereeing can take her.
“I’ve only ever refereed 15s but as a player I really enjoyed 7s and I’d love to be involved in the Olympics (Brisbane 2032) in some capacity as a referee when that comes to Australia.
“Whether it’s on-field stuff, as a fourth or fifth or even as a TMO, that’d be an amazing experience.”
Grotaers and her fellow NT referees will have their hands full with a jam-packed final round of Darwin senior and junior rugby this weekend.
In the Darwin XXXX A-Grade competition, Casuarina are pushing to complete an unbeaten regular season when they clash with South Darwin at Rugby Park on Saturday while Uni Pirates will look to bounce back from a 31-29 upset loss to Darwin Dragons in Round 14.
The Cougars have already wrapped up the minor premiership but second place is still mathematically up for grabs between Souths and Uni - the Rabbitohs need a bonus point win over Casuarina plus the Pirates to lose to Palmerston without a bonus point.
“I think our competitions are in a really good space heading into finals,” NT Rugby CEO Nathan McDonald said.
“We’ve seen some excellent results with the likes of Dragons upsetting Uni Pirates and Palmerston and Souths getting good wins in the past few weeks.
“It shows just how close and competitive this season has been, even with Casuarina being in a strong position, and I’m really looking forward to how our finals series plays out.”
In the NT Bitumen & Asphalt B-Grade competition, Uni Pirates have already secured top spot following last weekend’s 22-12 win over Darwin Dragons.
Katherine’s Rucking Roos control their own finals destiny and can lock down second place with a win over the Dragons this weekend.
Meanwhile Casuarina and South Darwin are set for a massive showdown this Saturday with the winner securing a guaranteed top-three finish.
Darwin Dragons remain the pacesetters ahead of Casuarina in the women’s competition after smashing Uni Pirates 43-0 last weekend with Cougars’ Lavinia Norris notably scoring a hat-trick in her side’s 53-0 demolition of Palmerston.