Aylen’s amazing international refereeing career comes to an end

NBL referee Michael Aylen has retired from international refereeing following a remarkable career that spanned across 24 years. 

Among the accolades are three World Championships, one Commonwealth Games, one World Cup, one Olympic Qualifying Tournament and three Olympic Games. 

One of Aylen’s fondest memories stems from 2012 where he became the first Australian referee to officiate a Gold Medal game at the Olympic Games. 

Funnily enough, Aylen didn’t think he was in line for that opportunity at the time, packing his bags to head home after the women’s Gold Medal game. 

Then when the message came through, history beckoned for the Aussie. 

“USA and Spain were playing so it was $100 million worth of players and a $1.50 referee from Nunawading on the court,” Aylen says. 

“There’s Lebron (James), Kobe (Bryant), Dwayne Wade, (Kevin) Durant so it was a bit surreal standing on the court.” 

Having been to Athens in 2004, Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012, the experience of going to one Olympic Games, let alone three, is not lost on Aylen. 

“The Olympics are the pinnacle,” he says. 

“Scott Butler (NBL Head of Referees) and I went to represent Australia in the opening ceremony and we saw the cauldron being lit.

“You can’t really describe how it felt in that moment.” 

Now with four children (one who is two years old and one who is 15 weeks old) and being in the midst of another NBL off-season, Aylen has had time to reflect on his international career. 

He sums it up in one word; “lucky”. 

“The harder you work, the luckier you get,” Aylen says. 

“For years at a time, I would get up at 4am and do my training and reviews so I didn’t disturb the family. 

“I just worked hard, did the right things and listened to the right people. 

“It’s all swings and roundabouts. 

“If anyone told me I was going to do three Olympics, I would’ve said you needed to be committed.” 

With the current COVID-19 situation, having a young family and still refereeing in the NBL full-time, Aylen knew it was the right time to hang up the whistle at the International level. 

The journey doesn’t stop there for the 10-time Referee of the Year though, as he will continue to officiate in the NBL and edcuate the younger generation of referees. 

His advice for them is simple- be patient. 

“Sometimes it falls your way and sometimes it doesn’t,” Aylen says. 

“Some kids will miss a spot on the list but it’s just because it’s not their time. 

“If you’re really committed to getting where your goals are, be committed, listen to your coaches.” 

In terms of his own career, Aylen is happy to keep officiating in the NBL until his body can no longer handle it. 

“If the legs keep holding up, I’ll go as long as they want me to go,” he says.

“I’m still looking to improve, I’m still in the gym five days a week as a 51-year-old. 

“I’ve been fortunate to be in the NBL since 1996 and full-time since 2016. 

“It’s still business as usual when we get back on court this season.” 


Michael Aylen’s CV 

1996 - NBL debut

1997 – 2021- Awarded FIBA license   

2001 - World Championships Young Men, Japan

2003 - World Championships U19 Men, Thessaloniki

2004 - Olympic Games, Athens

2006 - Commonwealth Games, Melbourne

2006 - World Championships Men, Japan

2008 - Olympic Games, Beijing

2010 - World Championships Men, Turkey

2012 - Olympic Games, London (including the Gold Medal Game between USA and Spain)

2014 - World Cup, Spain

2016 - Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Philippines



744 NBL games

61 Grand Final games

10-time Referee of the Year



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