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Good call: Vital pilot sets officials up for life

Every elite referee has a story about the people who mentored them from a young age and guided them to the positions they hold today.

For me, it all started with my dad, John, who completed his accreditation at the same time I did, just to support my entry into officiating.

From there, I was fortunate to have dad and so many great mentors and coaches in my corner, including a Gladstone referee named Les McCosh and a local footy coach Bevin Jackson at the early stages, through to Richard Johnston, John Topp and Eddie Ward, who all played a part in enabling me to reach my goals.

During my time officiating.
During my time officiating.

Realising the critical role people like this play for officials inspired the Queensland Rugby League, in conjunction with the NRL and with funding assistance from the Queensland Government, to hold the QRL North Officiating Coach and Mentor Conference at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville at the weekend.

The two-day pilot event, featuring a mixture of theory and practical components, was a resounding success in giving close to 50 referee coaches and mentors from the QRL North region a framework to improve retention.

It came on the back of us doing some reviews and finding we lose referees because they’re not being engaged and upskilled.

The best way for us to fix that is to upskill the coaches and mentors who have the first touch points with our community and grassroots referees, because they are in the best position to encourage them to stay in the game.

While it is hoped equipping our mentors with the tools to support young officials ultimately encourages our next generation to strive for senior and perhaps elite level, helping set up our referees with valuable life skills is just as important.

Being a match official teaches so many skills and values that are useful later in life, including how to deal with pressure, time management, conflict resolution, accountability and discipline.

We received some great feedback from the conference, which will now shape a national rollout of coach and mentor education, with a view to holding similar events each for QRL Central and QRL South East regions later this year, if not more.

Along with the referee development squad program, which expanded to new regional hubs in the off-season, such initiatives will help further QRL goals to attract and retain more officials into the future to support our growing on-field participation.

Referee associations across the state are currently getting stuck into their inductions for 2023, while Gold Coast and Toowoomba officials will hold their respective development camps this weekend on the back of a similar camp for Brisbane referees last weekend.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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