There is a lot of talk on here about the poor quality of refereeing. This tread isn’t designed to bag or promote the referees but to try and provide some insight. As some may have worked out from some of my posts I have refereed the game at a local level. I still occasionally have a run but family and work commitments limit my availability.
Firstly any referee who has made it to the top grade has put in a lot of work to get there. They have had to work their way up from refereeing at a junior level through minis, mods to international and this can take a few years. From there they have to consistently perform to be invited to participate in junior reps where they get high level training from experienced referees. From there they are graded and do senior competition matches (NSW Cup, Sydney Shield etc.). This progress would take a good 8-10 years and you are still a level away from NRL. During this time you are paid a minimal amount for the games that you do and would also be working a full time job and balancing family commitments. So it is a lot of hard work and dedication to the game of Rugby League.
Most of the refs that I know want come in two categories they are either young kids who want to make a bit of pocket money (a lot of them still playing as well) and guys who are a bit older who want to give back to the game.
Now most people think that it is an easy job but there are a number of rules you need to be aware of and these changes depending on the level of competition you are refereeing. On top of that you are running around for the entire game and are regularly asked to do 4 and 5 games back to back with minimal rest. It’s quite difficult to be mentally switch on for long periods under fatigue.
On top of this you have a lot of people who want to yell at you and tell you that you are wrong consistently. When you are on the field the crowd noise is generally just noise however you hear the odd comment. I have a pretty thick skin and cop it most of the time but some times its over the top and is just wrong. I often wonder if they yell at other people who are just trying to do their job.
The on field stuff is a bit whatever and is mainly people getting caught up in the game. It’s the stuff you have to deal with after the game or from trainers that is turning referees away. Incidents aren’t isolated and occur much to regularly and I have seen club officials and junior leagues cover up disgusting behaviour with little more than a warning to not do it again.
Personally I am always happy to talk to trainers, coaches and managers after a game to discuss any decision and regularly these are positive experiences but regularly they are not. For example recently a coach wanted to ask me a question and continued to tell me that I was too harsh on his under 9’s team because I blew a penalty for not playing the play straight. Now this is a fundamental rule of the game but a calmly explained to him that I had warned his boys on the previous two play the balls and was reminding them the 3rd time to 'play it straight, play it straight" and that his boys weren’t listening. Now this set him off and he preceded to yell at me and then a mother decides to walk passed and tell me how the way I spoke to the boys on the field was terrible. Now I have two adults yelling at me over one decision they didn’t like in an under 9’s game.
Previous I have seen trainers yell at 15 year olds who are making calls with some support from the touch line (as you would expect) because they are not confident enough to make a call themselves. This trainer even threaten to fight me when I step in and told him to calm down or he would have to move behind the rope. Even with a report put in for this behaviour the trainer so still there the following week.
As you can see if is a lot of work to be a referee at a local level all for a little bit of money and the love of the game. In my opinion if we want to see the quality of refereeing improve in the NRL we need to look at the grass roots and protect our junior referees so that they want to stay in the game. Personally I’m in my mid 30s and never had aspirations of being a professional referee but even I prefer to do mini football now where you can just focus on kids developing their skills and enjoying the game. I have seen many a great junior referee who has potential give the game away because of the way that they are treated. If junior leagues and clubs got really strict on this stuff and not just put a sign at the ground telling people to behave, we would have a stronger referee base that could only lead to stronger referees.
Sorry that was so long.