It’s not just players who strive to achieve their best on the field and hold high hopes of making their Intrust Super Cup debuts, it’s the match officials as well.
In Round 1 of this year, the hard work of two Queensland Rugby League referees’ high performance unit members paid off when they were appointed as assistant referees in the opening games of the Intrust Super Cup.
To make their debuts extra special, both Sam Swift, from the Gold Coast Referees Association, and Brisbane Referees Association member Jack Ebert, were congratulated on their appointments at the inaugural high performance unit match officials launch by the legend himself Eddie Ward, who recently retired from his role of QRL referees manager.
“To referee in the Intrust Super Cup has been a dream since I attended my first state carnival for Under 11s about 10 years ago,” Ebert, who originally hails from Townsville, said.
“Having it announced that I’d be debuting in Cup in Round 1 at the inaugural referees season launch was such a special moment.
“Being surrounded by the boys in the squad, mates that I’ve known for years, who’ve been on the journey as well, was something I’ll never forget.
“Later that night when I told my partner, as well as having my parents on FaceTime, there might have been a few tears between us four just quietly.”
For Swift, the debut in the Mackay Cutters v Norths Devils game came after a standout 2019 season which saw the former Burleigh Bears player officiate in a number of key matches.
“It was certainly a highlight year for me and I was very thankful to Eddie and former referees high performance coordinator John (Topp) for giving me the opportunities to officiate in the National Under 18 Championship and Hastings Deering Colts grand final,” Swift said.
“Both Eddie and John left a wonderful legacy and without their guidance and support in my transition back into refereeing, I would not have achieved what I have to date without them.
“Obviously, it's impossible to fill the gap left by Toppy and Eddie's departure, however, Shayne (Hayne – NRL transitional coach) has implemented some excellent systems that will hold the future officiating ranks in good stead moving forward.
“It was always a career goal to officiate in such a prestigious competition like the Intrust Super Cup and to have the opportunity to have played and now refereed at that level is certainly a privilege.”
Swift, who made the move over from playing to refereeing at the start of the 2018 season, said he took up match officiating as a way to stay in touch with rugby league after he found he no longer had the love of playing the game.
He had heard that his friend Daniel Schwass, who had showed promise as a junior referee before putting aside the whistle to pursue a playing career which included stints with the Gold Coast Titans and the Burleigh Bears, had once again joined the refereeing ranks after identifying it as a potential career pathway and was inspired to follow suit.
“As full-time was called on the 2017 season, a feeling that I always thought I would avoid throughout my lifetime dawned on me; I no longer enjoyed playing rugby league,” Swift said.
“Once I made the decision that I wouldn’t go around again in 2018, I was determined to stay involved with a game that has provided me with so much opportunity and enjoyment over the past 15 years.
“I volunteered to coach a junior side at the Nerang Roosters, but upon hearing the news that Daniel Schwass, a former teammate and good friend, had decided to return to refereeing ranks, it prompted me to follow him and pick up a whistle again.”
Much like as it is for players, Ebert’s debut in the Easts Tigers v Central Queensland Capras game is something he will remember for a long time.
“Game day itself was so special because there was a bit of uncertainty about if the games would go ahead, or if they would, but with no crowds because of coronavirus,” Ebert said.
“But it all worked in the end and my parents were able to fly down from Townsville, and some lifelong mates from Brisbane were all able to be there on game day, which was amazing.
“I’m so grateful it played out the way it did. I was lucky too because Easts livestream their games, so my partner and mates were able to watch the stream and share the day.
“The game itself is a blur already, but I remember catching myself smiling the entire time. I was probably smiling since it got announced to be honest.”