All couples share common interests but Campbell-Kirk Kawana-Waugh and Anna-Marie Keighley will take that a step further tomorrow when they become the first husband-and-wife pair to referee each game on the New Zealand Football cup finals day.
Anna-Marie will take charge of the Women’s Knockout Cup final between Eastern Suburbs and Glenfield Rovers while Campbell-Kirk will do likewise in the men’s equivalent, the famous ISPS Handa Chatham Cup, as Onehunga Sports chase their first title against five-time winners Central United.
Both matches are at Auckland’s QBE Stadium – as well as being screened live on SKY Sport – and it is the first time a husband and wife have ever officiated in the finals of the country’s two showpiece cup competitions.
“We were both lucky enough to be recognised and appointed to the games and it’s pretty exciting to make a little bit of New Zealand football history,” Anna-Marie says.
With both among the leading referees in the country, the services of Campbell-Kirk and Anna-Marie are in high demand each weekend and they will relish the experience of not having to go their separate ways on Sunday.
“Both of us are out and about in different areas, either in Auckland for the northern league during the winter or around the country for the summer national leagues,” Anna-Marie explains. “It’s pretty common for us to be going in different directions so it’s nice to be going to the same place this time and both being there to support each other.”
The couple first met through refereeing and tied the knot in July. Now based in Hamilton, both agree their spouse has played a key role in their impressive careers as match officials.
“I know a lot of other referees who maybe don’t get the same kind of support from their partners as we do – it’s great to have someone who understands the demands of being at the top,” Campbell-Kirk says.
“It takes a lot of time and sacrifice with all the training and sometimes it can be hard to get out there, especially in the winter at 6pm in the rain. But one of us always says to the other, ‘Come on, we need to get out there and do this’. There are a lot of ups and downs with refereeing so to have someone to go through that with makes a big difference.”
That hard work has paid off with Campbell-Kirk firmly established as one of New Zealand’s best male referees and Anna-Marie making her mark on the international stage after appearing at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Olympic Games and many other global age-group tournaments.
Anna-Marie, who works as a teacher at Rototuna Senior High, says much of her progress can be put down to the support of her husband, who is always on hand to help critique her performances and offer advice.
“He’s been refereeing longer than I have so has a good understanding of how all the teams play and their tactics,” she says. “He has a wealth of expertise I can draw on and apply in some of my games. It’s kind of like having my own personal 24-hour mentor.”
With their lives so heavily entwined with the beautiful game, the pair admit it can be hard to get away from football and do make a conscious effort to enjoy other aspects of married life.
“It’s definitely hard because we’re both so involved and Anna-Marie coaches a team at her school as well. And my whole family is football so sometimes it can just be a football, football, football mind-set,” Campbell-Kirk says. “But we have tried to make sure at least one day a week is no football and that we don’t go out to a game or watch one on TV.”
Used to running the rule over 22 players and having the final say, you may think a couple featuring two referees would have its differences but Anna-Marie says her and Campbell-Kirk are no different to any other husband and wife and that she often enjoys taking a back seat at home.
“It’s funny, I make a lot of decisions on the field so sometimes it’s nice afterwards to hand over some of the decision making, like what we’re going to have for dinner and things like that,” she explains. “It’s like any other relationship in that it’s all about give and take and sharing responsibility.”
The finals of the ISPS Handa Chatham Cup and Women’s Knockout Cup both take place at QBE Stadium in Auckland tomorrow, tickets available at the gate for $10 while all U-16 children are free.