FOR many Queensland rugby league juniors, it is a dream to grow up and become a part of the NRL.
While for most youngsters it is as a player – for rising North Queensland star George Sailor, it is as a referee.
Hailing from the tiny township of New Mapoon (population of 410 according to 2010 Census data); George is only 14 years old, but is already showing he has the skill and commitment necessary to make it in the top level.
He was recently named the Cairns District Junior Rugby League Presentation of the Most Promising Referee and has officiated at numerous events such as the Dan Ropeyarn Memorial Cup (NPA Cup) in Bamaga and the recent Zenadth Kes Cup on Thursday Island.
A busy match official who is in high demand, he also officiated at the Gindaja Cup on the weekend.
George’s story is an inspirational one – and shows that no matter who you are or where you come from – there is a place for you in rugby league.
George started his career as a rugby league referee when he was quite young, volunteering as a ball boy for the Dan Ropeyarn Memorial Cup. After chasing the footballs around for the three days of the carnival and he came back each year after that before he was gradually introduced to being a linesman.
In 2013, the Northern Peninsula Area Rugby League started again following a two-year absence, but the competition was short of qualified match officials. George put up his hand to referee, and not only did he take charge of the juniors in his first year, he was appointed to officiate in the inaugural NPA 9s Open Men’s competition.
George’s grandmother Margaret Mark is his biggest supporter and granted her blessing for him to move away from home to develop not only his refereeing; but also to further his education.
George was granted the inaugural CDRLRA Referee Scholarship and is now a student at Peace Lutheran College in Cairns.
The QRL’s Regional Coordinator Dave Maiden has worked closely with George in his role and has praised the young match official for his dedication and his grandmother for doing such a good job to raise him.
“She is grateful that he has been given an opportunity to progress both his schooling and his passion of refereeing,” Dave said.
“I know he wants to progress through the refereeing ranks to one day become an NRL Match Official – he has a pretty clear pathway in his head about where he wants to go and to his credit, he has really progressed down that path this year.
“He is doing well at school and is well liked by his teachers and fellow boarders.
“He recently completed his NRL Touch Referees course so he is keen to also work on those skills.
“He is a great kid and I know he has the passion, drive and commitment to make it as far as he wants to go. Now it is up to him.”
The Cairns District Junior Rugby League also recently honoured George at their end-of-year awards ceremony. Read more about George’s journey up the refereeing ranks here - Cairns District Junior Rugby League awards – George Sailor