Group 11 2017: Call for more people to become referees in lead-up to new season

MEN IN THE MIDDLE: Group 11 referees Simon Hartas and Willy Barnes with Craig Haylan of Astley's Plumbing and Hardware, a business which has now been sponsoring the whistle-blowers for 10 years. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE
MEN IN THE MIDDLE: Group 11 referees Simon Hartas and Willy Barnes with Craig Haylan of Astley's Plumbing and Hardware, a business which has now been sponsoring the whistle-blowers for 10 years. Photo: BELINDA SOOLE

There’s an age old saying in rugby league – “who’d be a referee?”

But with the Group 11 season now just around the corner the call has come out for more people around the region to take up the whistle.

The Group 11 Referees Association, enjoying its 10th season of sponsorship from Astley’s Plumbing and Hardware, is dealing with the problem of low numbers, something common through country footy.

“We don’t have enough numbers again this year, we’re struggling,” NRL Referee Development Officer and Group 11 referee Willy Barnes said.

“It’s a good ting for fitness and its good to put something back into the game that we all played and enjoyed, its a way of putting something back and you make a few bucks on the side as well.

“We need more of the junior referees to come on board and start running lines to blood them for when the times comes when they step into the centre.”

As well as the chance to remain involved with the game, taking up a role locally can help any aspiring referees to the big time.

Barnes works closely with promising whistle-blowers and said there is the chance to go from out west to the city.

“The pathway is now no different to a player’s. If you’ve got the ability you’ll be spotted,” he said.

“We have coaches everywhere, coaches and mentors of referees and they have access to the NRL and we can get people like (former NRL referees) Shayne Hayne or Steve Clark to come and look at them. I’ve got my development squad that they can join and from there they can get spotted and if they’ve got the ability they can go to Sydney and into the big stuff.”

The action really ramps up for the referees at the Parkes Nines on March 25 and 26 and with games now so close, Barnes made a point of saying it wouldn't be possible without the support of the valued sponsor.

“This is their (Astley’s) tenth year supporting us and without their support we’d be lost, money-wise,” he said.

“Obviously with Stuart (Astley) here at Astley’s he’s got ties to league connection through Luke Priddis, his nephew, he played at the Panthers. It’s always good to have local support.”