Karra-Lee Nolan takes exciting next step in her officiating journey

Updated: May 8, 2019

By Courtney Ward / South Coast Register

Ever since she started refereeing in Group Seven nine years ago, Karra-Lee Nolan has always dreamt big.

And although she’s now moved on from the competition that taught her everything she knows, the goal posts haven’t changed.

The 25-year-old fully appreciates everything that has Group Seven has given her – including her history making appointment in last year’s grand final between Shellharbour and Kiama.

“Since beginning refereeing back in 2010, I always had the goal of refereeing a first grade grand final,” Nolan said.

“To achieve that was special to me and a moment I will never forget.

“The 2018 season was one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced to date – both on field and off field.

“Reflecting back now, it was a nice to be able to finish on a high, with a prestigious goal achieved.

“I think every year gets harder but I continue to find myself growing in maturity as an athlete as well as a human being.”

The 2018 season also marked the Shellharbour product’s fourth straight Group Seven Referee of the Year award.

“I have always been competitive person and more so with myself,” she said.

“Not everyone sees the work carried out behind the scenes – to referee that final and receive the award was not only self-satisfying as a reward for the season’s efforts but it was a testament to myself.

“It is solely reflected through persistence and a long-term commitment to working towards being the best official I can be and making the most of every opportunity.

“Being named referee of the year for the past four years is something I never thought would be achievable.

“For me, that alone is something that still comes as a shock.

“I do what I do on a weekly basis because I gain enjoyment and satisfaction from being challenged and being involved in a game I love.”

On the back of her best season to date on the South Coast, the 25-year-old decided to take her talents north to the Illawarra District Rugby League competition – plans that changed when the NSWRL came knocking.

“I needed a new challenge in a different environment,” she said.

“With aspirations to further progress my career in gaining more experience, this was a decision I had made at the end of 2018.

“This being the plan going forward into the 2019 season, before I recently gained selection into the NSW high performance squad.”

Nolan was originally invited in the NSW squad on a train-on capacity, on the back of her strong work with the NRL accelerated learning group, which started in November before attending the NSW referees camp in February – which ultimately led to her graduating from the NSW high performance referee grade squad last week.


“There are many well known names that have achieved plenty in their careers among the NSW and NRL ranks,” she said.

“Many that have left their mark on the officiating world and have given so much to the game.

“So to be able to be a part of that culture and have the opportunity to carry out what these men and women have done and created, is an honour.

“It was always a dream to eventually work my way into achieving a NSW graded number and now that I have, I want to make the most of the opportunity I have at hand and more importantly, enjoy where the journey takes me.”

This presentation is just the icing on the cake for Nolan, who has already endured an extremely busy and beneficial 2019 on the field – including refereeing a number of Jersey Flegg games as well as the final of the men’s CRL Country Championships – which the Illawarra South Coast Dragons won.


“Every experience I’ve had this year has been rewarding in their own way,” she said.

“I have been able to learn, develop and work with some dedicated and talented officials and coaches.

“One thing I’ve had to adjust to is the mindset in those higher level games – as the game is the same game, it doesn’t change.

“The skills of the players and the speed of the game increases as you go up the levels but if you apply your referee foundations and skills that have been developed, then it is just a matter of putting yourself in the best position to make decisions and believing in yourself.”

Nolan, who is now eligible to referee all NSWRL competitions including Jersey Flegg and Canterbury Cup, appreciates that her whirlwind past couple of months has helped her take her standard of officiating to the next level.

“By being able to experience different games in different environments, I have been challenged both physically and mentally – from working towards building mental toughness and resilience in training, through games and within the balance of life,” she said.

“For me, resilience is the biggest experience and will continue to be presented as a challenge for the rest of life’s entirety.

“It has been a matter of identifying strategies, adapting and seeking out guidance and the support from mentors, coaches and my family.”

Nolan, who thanks the staff at Warilla High School for their continued support, is now out to cement herself as one of the top NSWRL referees.

“I am striving for a season that is based on consistent performances, by learning off the more experienced referees and working towards developing my skill set as an official,” she said.

“I am a little fish in the big pond, trying to establish myself within a new squad and being best prepared for the roller coaster.

“Keeping in mind everyone is competing for that next game, that next position and furthermore competing to progress into the NRL squad.

“With that in mind, I will continue to seek out and encourage others to become involved in refereeing and help give back to the sport that has already given so much to me.

“I aim to work towards developing my own skill set both on and off the field and hopefully one day reach the the pinnacle and that is refereeing in the NRL.”