In his own words, Bronson Ryan was a pesky former halfback who did everything he could to get a result for his team.
But now the retired former Cairns footballer has a “different view of the game” – and he’s loving every minute of it.
Having tasted premiership success with Mossman at the end of last year, Ryan put away his playing boots and took up the whistle for the start of the 2017 season.
“I was chasing that grand final and I finally got one in C Grade,” Ryan said.
“I was interested in taking up coaching, but there was nothing available at the time.
“I still wanted to put something back into the game, so I decided to take up refereeing and I’m really enjoying it.”
In the opening few weeks of the Cairns & District Rugby League, the 40-year-old school teacher has already officiated Reserve Grade and Under 19 games, as well as Under 15s and Under 16s.
Although he’s barely a month into his new career, he’s already come across plenty of wily campaigners trying to get one over him.
But they needn’t bother – because Ryan has seen – and done it all – before.
“Now I know exactly what they’re trying to do,” he laughed.
Ryan is enjoying his new gig so much that he’s now leading the call for other former players to join the refereeing ranks.
“This is a great opportunity if they want to continue being part of rugby league,” he said.
“I’ve learnt heaps over the last month, seeing it from a different lens.”
He is also encouraging Indigenous men and women to become referees in their local competition.
Ryan has strong cultural ties to many Indigenous communities in the Far North area, and it is hoped that more players and coaches will also make the move to refereeing.
Michael Inman, the NRL's NQ Referees’ Development Officer, said Ryan’s success would assist their recruitment prospects.
"There will be regular games in the more remote areas of North Queensland that require match officials, and we are hoping to see more talented young people like Bronson try their hand at refereeing,” Inman said.
“Bronson’s knowledge of the game, along with his strong communication skills, will make him an asset to the game for years to come.”
In 2017 alone, the number of former players becoming match officials has increased, with six former players from across North Queensland becoming referees, including five with Intrust Super Cup experience.