By Max Fletcher
Four clubs go into Sunday’s men’s and women’s Grand Finals eager to claim the honour of becoming national champions.
But as the teams walk on to Go Media Stadium Mt Smart, a fifth team will be working hard to help deliver domestic football’s showcase matches — the eight match officials.
The finals of the men’s (1pm) and women’s (4pm) National Leagues will have some of the country’s most experienced match officials.
Here’s who they are …
Men’s National League Grand Final
Auckland City v Wellington Olympic
Go Media Stadium, Auckland, 1pm
Referee — Nick Waldron
This will be Nick Waldron’s third Men’s National League final.
His last final was in 2019 when Eastern Suburbs beat Team Wellington 3-0.
His first Grand Final was in the ASB Premiership days of 2012 when Waitakere United were victorious over Team Wellington 4-1.
Two months ago, Waldron took charge of the 2023 Chatham Cup final between Melville United and winners Christchurch United.
This year, Waldron has taken charge of 15 Northern League men’s games and five men’s National League fixtures.
Assistant referee 1 — Edward Cook
Edward Cook has been an assistant referee based in the Central League and has covered many games this season.
Cook has been an assistant referee for two men’s National League games this season. He also was an assistant
referee for the 2023 Chatham Cup Final.
Assistant referee 2 — Gareth Shennan
Gareth Shennan was also an assistant with Cook, and referee Waldron, for the 2023 Chatham Cup Final.
He has been an assistant for five men’s National League games this season and has officiated in many Central League matches.
Fourth official — Cory Mills
Cory Mills has been refereeing throughout New Zealand this year, involved in the Northern, Central and Southern Leagues.
He has refereed five matches In the men’s National League and has been a fourth official for several more.
Women’s National League Grand Final
Auckland United v Southern United
Go Media Stadium, Auckland, 4pm
Referee — Anna-Marie Keighley
One of the top women’s referees in the country gets to referee another grand final.
Keighley refereed the National Women’s League Grand Final last year between winners Eastern Suburbs and Western Springs.
In 2019, she refereed the final between winners Canterbury United Pride and Northern Lights.
Keighley refereed the final of this year’s Kate Sheppard Cup between winners Western Springs and Wellington United.
She officiated at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup and is now on the panel for the women’s A-League.
She has refereed five games in this year’s Women’s National League.
Assistant referee 1 — Helosie Welch
Like Keighley, this will also be Welch’s second Grand Final in a row as an assistant referee.
Welch has been an assistant referee for four women’s National League fixtures this season.
She has also been appointed to the panel of assistant referees for the women’s A-League.
Assistant referee 2 — Courtney Bremner
Courtney Bremner was also part of the officiating team at last year’s women’s Grand Final.
This year, Bremner has been a regular assistant referee for the men’s Southern League games and has been an assistant referee for four Women’s National League games, and one Men’s National League match.
Fourth official — Beth Rattray
This season, Rattray has refereed six Women’s National League games and been a fourth official for several Men’s National League matches.
With Keighley, she is also on the Liberty A-League panel and has already been involved in games this season, with more to come.
Waikato-based Max Fletcher is a writer for Friends of Football. He’s also a qualified football and futsal referee.