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Leading NRL referee Matt Cecchin recently spent time with the Queensland Rugby League High Performance Unit match officials in his role as a State of Mind ambassador.

Cecchin – who has been in the middle for both of this year’s Origin games so far – stayed in Brisbane following Game I to do an NRL State of Mind session with project officer David Shillington on June 1 alongside former player and NRL Officiating Wellbeing and Education Manager Bryan Norrie.

There were approximately 50 referees and referee coaches in attendance as Cecchin shared some of his personal experiences with the group as part of the session.

Cecchin has recently opened up about his journey with mental illness – something one in two Australians will experience in their lifetime; and one in five will suffer from it this year. 

The following passages have been taken from an feature with Matt Cecchin by Andrew Bryan.

Giving support to young referees

While NRL referees know that pressure and scrutiny comes with the territory, Cecchin is very conscious of the young referees coming through the grades. 

It's not an easy job at any level of the game and is often a thankless pastime. 

It is why after State of Origin I, Cecchin stayed in Brisbane at the request of former player and current Queensland State of Mind project officer David Shillington to talk to a group of Queensland referees. 

"The scrutiny is at every level of our game, with officiating,” Cecchin said.

“As a kid you hear the comments from mums and dads who are very passionate about their kids playing, they forget you are just a kid getting paid a hamburger and a milkshake.

"I try to get to junior games and walk around and talk to people and ask them if they watched last night's games. 'Did you see me make mistakes?' And they say yes, and I say well this kid is going to make mistakes, but he is doing his best. 

“When you are a kid running around, you always do the physical drills, exercise and training, but we never do anything with mental health and young referees. 

“I see us having dedicated sessions as a weekly ongoing maintenance program for our officials at all levels, because it is such a crucial part of what we do.

“For referees – we don't win or lose every week, it is hard to get an indication of how your performance really was. 

“You tend to build really good relationships with your fellow referees, and they tend to know when you are going well or not, and will support you.”

This session was the first of three welfare sessions that will be undertaken by the QRL HPU referees this year. They have since had a talk on Illicit Substances; while their third and final session will be on Resilience.

*Read the rest of this feature story on Matt Cecchin at the website.