Yugambeh woman Jacqui Dover aims to be the first Native Australian woman to judge in the NBA

Jacqui Dover has become a pioneer in Australian women’s basketball, despite never having played the sport at the elite level.

The self-proclaimed “bench warmer” suffered several injuries in the early days of her playing career, prompting her to take a whistle and become a referee.

That transition has now given her a ticket to New York to begin the process of becoming a full-time NBA referee.

In 2022, Queenslander will occupy one of just six positions with the league’s Referee Development Program: A highly coveted role she has pursued for several years now.

“[I] hoped for a grassroots invitation from there, but COVID has somehow put everything on hold. “

Her patience through a grueling interview and selection process paid off, though Dover admitted she hoped to speed up her progression and training and then debuted the NBA within five years.

Basketball referee Jacqui Dover is on the field during an NBL match.
There are still a few steps left on Jacqui Dover’s road to refereeing an NBA game.(Getty Images: Jono Searle)

“First I have to get to the G-League, perform and then be selected for the NBA, so there has to be some work,” Dover said.

But that’s a small fraction of the path she hopes will be a long career if her body is up to the challenge.

Her resume to date

As a proud Yugambeh woman, Jacqui Dover made history as the first female native referee to officiate an NBL match during the league’s native round earlier this year.

In the 2021-22 season, she remains the only female official in the NBL.

“Definitely in the minority, but the guys are really welcoming and supportive, so it’s a really nice team to be a part of,” she said.


Dover credits the female referees who guided her and the growing caliber of players in the Australian leagues for her success.

“We’re starting to get really high quality basketball – we had it before – but now just having the import and the young guys coming over to play here, that’s probably the best preparation I could have to go over there and then be exposed to the system, “she said.

In addition to her own progression as an official, Dover has developed her own training academy for young judges in hopes of following in her footsteps.

From an academy that offers individualized training, to camps across the country, Dover said it was also her great passion to promote future officials in the sport.

What it takes to keep up with the players

A woman smiles at the camera while standing outside an airport.
By 2022, Jacqui Dover will occupy a highly sought-after position in the NBA’s Referee Development Program. (ABC News: Chris Gillette)

Dover is packing to move to the US permanently from January, while also balancing her itinerary with the NBL in the first few rounds of the 2021-22 season.

Regardless of the length of her trip, she is rarely without her recovery tools due to training and playing day loads on her body.

The NBL provides all of its gaming staff with a year-round training program to ensure they can keep up with the nation’s best players.


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