Mildenhall calls time on stellar career

Mildenhall calls time on stellar career

One of Australia’s greatest ever sporting officials, National Basketball League referee Bill Mildenhall, has announced his retirement from the iiNet NBL Championship and on Sunday will officiate the final game of his incredible career at the State Netball Hockey Centre (AKA ‘The Cage’) in Melbourne.

Mildenhall, who has officiated in the NBL since its inaugural season in 1979 and is the most decorated referee in NBL history, will blow the whistle at an NBL game for the final time when he officiates the Melbourne Tigers’ home game against the Gold Coast Blaze. 

Mildenhall has been one of the NBL’s best referees over four decades, winning an amazing 16 consecutive NBL Referee of the Year awards from 1988 to 2003 - a record for both the number of awards won and consecutive wins. 

It is fitting that Mildenhall’s final game will be at The Cage.  It was at that venue on 6 January 2005 that he broke the legendary Eddie Crouch’s record for NBL games refereed by appearing in his 803rd NBL match when the Melbourne Tigers hosted the Hunter Pirates.

Sunday’s game will be Mildenhall’s 945th and final NBL match, setting an incredible record that surely will stand for a very long time. 

Basketball Australia Chief Executive Officer Larry Sengstock said Mildenhall’s impact on the NBL couldn’t be underestimated.

“Billy Mildenhall took on the toughest job in sports and always did it with utter professionalism, dedication and a sense of humour,” said Sengstock.  “It is a testament to his talents as a referee and his qualities as a person that he is popular with the players and coaches.  He has helped shape our game and took the standard of NBL officiating to a new, higher level. 

“While Billy will be greatly missed on the court, we are delighted that he will continue to help improve Australia’s already high standard of officiating through his role with Basketball Victoria as their Referee Development Officer.  He will also continue to have a role internationally, particularly at future world championships, through his role on the Technical Commission of FIBA. 

“We congratulate Billy on what has been a truly amazing career.”

Mildenhall's first-ever NBL match was on 11 March 1979, when he officiated the Nunawading Spectres versus St Kilda Saints game at the old Burwood Stadium in Nunawading. He has refereed in every NBL Grand Final series since 1987 and has also represented Australia at the highest level on the international stage. 

Mildenhall was selected to referee at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and the home Olympics in Sydney in 2000.  In Sydney he refereed the Semi-Final for the women and the bronze medal men’s game in Barcelona.  He also officiated in five World Championships including the bronze medal game in the 1998 World Men’s Championships in Greece. 

Prior to his career as an NBL whistleblower, Mildenhall was also a successful AFL player, being a member of the St Kilda team from 1974 to 1982 and appearing in 77 senior games.

The NBL will make an on-court presentation to Mildenhall prior to his final game.