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Dan Munroe: 'I want to have fun and make some good calls'

It's not the bright socks Dan Munroe wears to training that caught fiancée Brittee Stephan's eye that has the Queensland Rugby League High Performance Unit match official making his NRL debut on the line this weekend.

It's years of hard work, starting at Currumbin in 2008, the support of colleagues, family and friends, and a passion for the game of rugby league.

Munroe will become NRL match official No.163 when he runs out for the clash between Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the New Zealand Warriors across the ditch on Sunday. An opportunity that has stunned Munroe, given how early in the year it is.

"I was holding my son and he was crying. My phone was on the lounge and I saw (NRL elite officiating general manager) Jared Maxwell's name come up on the phone," Munroe said.

"My head started to click into gear, thinking it was Monday, so that's when appointments come out for the NRL. I went 'oh shit, Britt, hold Archie'. I need to take this call.

"Picked up and it was a brief chat. He said 'good news, just letting you know you're going to be debuting in Round 4, across the ditch'. I was just a bit stunned. I didn't know how to respond. I thought 'is this really happening right now?'

"It was a two-minute phone call. I need to call him back and say a bit more of a 'thank you' because I was just a bit stunned."

Munroe - who is QRL match official No. 61 and has officiated in 60 games as a single and assistance referee - said it meant a lot to make the step up.

He spends 12 to 15 hours each week training, officiating, coaching and reviewing to perfect his craft and this is reward for that.

Training. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL
Training. Photo: Jorja Brinums/QRL

“I played until 15. I was a small winger, dislocated my shoulder, so I thought 'I think it's time to put a whistle in my hand' to stay part of the game,” Munroe said.

"Ever since I started refereeing back when I was just leaving high school in 2008, I always thought I'd love to try and make it to the top level... if not refereeing in the middle, on the line.

"I've put in a lot of years of hard work, working weekends, working on my craft. On the field and off the field, there's been a lot of highs and lows through that journey. Having my family by my side like my mum pushing me all the way and my fiancée Britt.

"Sometimes I've had second thoughts in the last couple of years around wanting to do it... so this just means the world. I just want to show my son if you put your head down and focus on yourself, you can make it to your dream. Hopefully he's proud his dad can reach his goals."

Munroe said there had been many highlights leading to this point including running the line at last year's NRL State Championship between Norths Devils and Penrith Panthers and Queensland Under 16 games that were curtain-raisers at Suncorp Stadium.

Dan Munroe at the 2022 NRL State Championship. Photo: NRL Imagery
Dan Munroe at the 2022 NRL State Championship. Photo: NRL Imagery

His first Cup game was the 2016 grand final rematch between Redcliffe Dolphins and Burleigh Bears at the beginning of 2017 when it was a two-referee system; he was assisting.

"I had a pretty good pre-season and got called up. It was on TV, on Channel 9, first game. Making my debut on Channel 9, when that was around, was pretty full on. I remember the day... it was so hot. I did a lot of running and it was exhausting. I'll cherish that day," Munroe said.

Munroe said he also enjoyed watching players he officiated early in his career excelling and making the top level, including Anthony Milford.

“That’s cool to see. And officiating is a good disconnect and has helped me keep fit. I like being part of the game. Rugby league is a very interesting sport. I think it's fun to watch. Being a match official, you can help with the game,” Munroe said.

“It's good travelling too. I like travelling. PNG has been fun. You do a lot of sightseeing, meet new friends, meet new players and have a relationship with everyone within the rugby league community.”

Munroe said QRL pathways and development coordinator John Topp had the biggest impact on him in the officiating space.

“A refereeing mentor or coach who has put me where I am today, it would have to be John Topp... to bring me through the ranks to Cup level. More off the field stuff, making sure my head is right. Sometimes your head can get messy with the ups and downs... Toppy has definitely helped me through those ups and downs,” Munroe said.

“I just try and be a nice person in life and take that onto the field. You're always going to go through ups and downs in your work career and life in general, so just managing that and remaining positive. That's put me in good stead.”

Munroe met his fiancée Britt Stephan at training.

“I met Britt in 2017 at training. I think it was my flash socks I was wearing that caught her attention. She said my stupid, colourful socks made me stand out. She came to me for a bit of advice on scrum presentation… just started talking and it went from there,” Munroe said.

“Britt, having used to be a referee, is very happy for me. To have her there in a last four years, to be there with me, and come and watch me, being very supportive, it has kept me in the refereeing ranks. I've had doubts about whether I want to keep going with the amount of time it takes, definitely since having our son.

“Becoming a dad has changed me. Britt has helped me keep my head right. To be honest, haven't looked back. Been together four years and have a little boy Archie, who is eight months old. I proposed at the gender reveal.”

The aviation quality safety specialist, with Britt and eight-month-old son Archie watching on, aims to “go out, have fun, smile, enjoy the moment, soak it up”.

“I don't want to overthink it, just make it another game. At the end of the day, I’ll make sure I'm switched on - it's NRL level, but I want to have fun,” Munroe said.

Dan Munroe at the 2022 Hostplus Cup grand final. Photo: Erick Lucero/QRL
Dan Munroe at the 2022 Hostplus Cup grand final. Photo: Erick Lucero/QRL

“While in the game think 'all the hard work over the last few years has put me in this position. I am proud that I've actually made this level. Which I've always strived to do. Not many people get this opportunity.

“I'd love to referee an NRL game. But there's not many people get that opportunity, or the opportunity to make the full-time NRL squad, so to make it as a casual NRL touch judge this weekend is a big milestone for me.

“When I run out there and cross that white line, it's a lot of years of hard work and mental composure. I am proud. I want to have fun and make some good calls, come off with a smile, see Britt and Archie there and have a good weekend in New Zealand.”

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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