NRL referee Gerard Sutton has achieved a career highlight and capped an outstanding year with his appointment to control Saturday’s Rugby League World Cup final between Australia and England in Brisbane.
The 37-year-old, who has officiated in 226 NRL matches since his debut in 2009, has gained the whistle for the tournament decider after having officiated in all three State of Origin games this season, taking his record to 10 straight Origin games, and the NRL grand final alongside Matt Cecchin.
Sutton has an impressive resume which also includes the NRL grand finals of 2014, ‘15 and ’17 (beside Cecchin) and Test match status for four successive seasons.
Touch judges will be 31-year-old Queenslander Chris Butler and the youngest member of the World Cup match officials group, 25-year-old Chris Kendall from the UK’s Super League.
Kendall has impressed with his development throughout the tournament, during which a squad of 25 match officials have been in camp in Brisbane. He made his international debut as centre referee in the Fiji v Wales game in Townsville as well as ‘running the line’ as a touch judge through to the quarter-finals and semi-finals.
NRL official Adam Gee will be the referee for the women’s final between Australia and New Zealand, with Robert Hicks (Super League) and Michael Wise (NRL) his assistants on the touch line.
“It was obviously a difficult decision to pick the referee for the [men’s] final after Matt Cecchin’s and Gerry’s excellent performances in the semi-finals and throughout the tournament, but I’m confident were have chosen the right person to do job,” RLWC head of officiating Tony Archer said.
“I’ve been very satisfied with the performances of our officials and we will certainly continue to see the benefits of having the opportunity to bring refs together from the northern and southern hemispheres into camp and learn from each other in such an environment for the first time.
“It has allowed us not to just deliver high level of officiating in this tournament, but to also bring in some younger refs with a view of progressing to the 2020-21 Rugby League World Cup.
“It has certainly helped achieve the best performance at international level in such a competitive tournament to have by having them in camp with access to a full coaching and support structure with medical and physical facilities around them.
“Those referees have gained experience not only at Test level, but in sharing knowledge and feedback with each other.”
Gee also made his international debut in the Papua New Guinea v USA match and has been rewarded with the women’s final which is sure to be a fast and highly competitive match.
Queenslander Michael Wise will assist him on the touch line, with Robert Hicks from the UK also appointed as a touch judge for the match.
Appointments for the finals at Brisbane Stadium:
RLWC17 - Australia v England
Referee: Gerard Sutton
Touch Judges: Chris Kendall and Chris Butler
Video Referee: Ben Thaler
Standby Referee: Matt Cecchin
Standby Touch Judge: Robert Hicks
WWC17 - Australia v New Zealand
Referee: Adam Gee
Touch Judges: Robert Hicks and Michael Wise
Video Referee: Shayne Hayne