THIS Wednesday night will be a huge one for NRL referee Grant Atkins as he runs the line in the State of Origin decider in Sydney.
It doesn’t get much bigger and more pressure-filled, but that’s exactly the kind of experience that makes Atkins a good role model for young match officials in the Group 19 area.
He joined with local referees at a clinic in Armidale this week to help develop young whistleblowers.
“We had them from Glen Innes, Inverell and Armidale,” Atkins said.
“We were there for five hours and did drills and skills.
“We looked at communicating with players, positioning and had a Q and A on life as an NRL referee.”
All sports are in a constant battle to recruit and retain match officials and rugby league is no exception.
By sending NRL referees and staff to regional areas for Country Rugby League clinics, like the one held on Tuesday, the aim is to encourage young referees and touch judges and help them become better at their role.
Atkins’ father is former Parramatta and Eastern Suburbs first grader Graeme Atkins, so he knows the game.
He has refereed or acted as linesman in 81 NRL matches and said the life of a referee includes a lot of sacrifice, but also plenty of rewards.
Like elite players, referees must train regularly, compete for places and take responsibility for mistakes on the field.
But then there’s the opportunity to be in the thick of the action at some massive events, like Wednesday’s Origin showdown between NSW and Queensland.
“It’s my first State of Origin,” Atkins said.
“You just try to do your best and hope it goes well.”