Pictured: Queensland referees Matt Muscat (Mackay), Dion Haddad (Gold Coast) and Griffin Bellette (Rockhampton) at the Australian 12 Years Championships in Wollongong.

The Gold Coast’s Dion Haddad is enjoying a breakthrough year in the refereeing ranks.

Dion recently returned from Wollongong where she refereed the Australian Championship 12 Years final between Queensland and New South Wales.

The 18-year-old match official said the championship decider felt like a “State of Origin” match, such was the intensity and passion on display.

“It was a really fast-paced game of footy,” Dion said of the Gary Balkin Cup final, won 26-6 by Queensland.

Dion was joined by fellow Queensland referees Matt Muscat (Mackay) and Griffin Bellette (Rockhampton) at the prestigious championships.

Matt and Griffin also officiated at the 12 Years Queensland Championships before making their way to Wollongong.

Dion went into the national championships with a spring in her step after officiating at the QRL U13, U14 and U16 State Championships in Cairns.

The Griffith University Sport and Event Management student made the most of her opportunity in Wollongong, impressing referees boss Steve Clark and Queensland-based co-ordinator Glen Richardson.

Dion said her performance in the Day 4 match between Western Australia and Victoria armed her with more confidence heading into the final day.

“It was awesome,” she said of her carnival experience.

“I really tried hard. I was glad I could do it for Clarky … he really liked my performances.

“He was amazing. He has so much experience and his advice was really good.”

Dion is eager to keep improving and hopes to emulate the achievements of Queenslander Belinda Sleeman, who is now entrenched in elite level state and national programs.

Dion’s rapid rise since taking up the whistle in 2010 indicates that anything is possible.

“My brother used to play and I was always explaining the rules to mum,” Dion said.

“Dad said ‘why don’t you take up refereeing, you get paid and can make a career out of it'’.”