You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Police, no sleep, referee, repeat: Watts' hectic path to 100

Chasing goals on little sleep may not be for everyone, but it was just one of the sacrifices Ben Watts made to pursue his goals of refereeing at the top level of rugby league in Queensland.

The 32-year-old will bring up his 100th Hostplus Cup game in charge on Sunday when Burleigh Bears host Redcliffe Dolphins at UAA Park.

An Aspley Devils junior, Watts picked up the whistle 15 years ago and quickly fell in love with the role, ending his playing career in a decision he is most grateful for.

At the same time he began climbing the development ladder, his career in the Queensland Police Service was taking off. Seeing the likes of NRL referees Bill Harrigan and Tony Archer – both products of the policing fraternity – was all the inspiration he needed, leading to his first Cup call-up in 2016.

“My first Cup game was in 2016, Mackay Cutters v Central Queensland Capras in Round 1, and that was amazing, I was so excited,” Watts said.

“But now to bring up 100 game I’m kind of speechless in a way I’ve got to that point, so I’m looking forward to getting out there and get through the game and build from that.

“Between refereeing and work it has been a pretty crazy 10 years or so on very little sleep and a lot of weekends.

“Sometimes I would only get a few hours sleep before going out to officiate a colts game just to get to Hostplus Cup and making my debut was kind of down to all those hours of minimal sleep and it worked out well.”

He said needing to make life-changing decisions on the beat helped prime him for refereeing – and some of the commentary.


QUEENSLAND POLICE DREAM TEAM v QUEENSLAND POLICE ALL-STARS With honour they served Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold....

Posted by QRL Officiating on Friday, February 24, 2023

“You get called a lot worse as a police officer than you do on a football field. It’s very, very tame compared to what you get called at work,” Watts said.

“I think early on for junior referees coming through the grades, you’re going to cop a little bit of stick from the crowd. That’s - unfortunately - officiating. But if you stick with it, I’ve found through my own personal career it eventually gets blurred out and you don’t hear it anymore.

“You’re in the middle of the field, you’re enjoying the game, you’re part of an amazing atmosphere and you only hear what goes on in the field.”

The low points, however, have come when he hasn’t lived up to his own standards, but learning “there’s always a bad game around the corner” and how to look ahead to his next game, changed his outlook.

Watts is setting his sights high for the future, hoping for an NRL opportunity, or adding another 100 Hostplus Cup games to challenge the record of “the pinnacle of QRL referees” in state match officials manager Clayton Sharpe.

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.

Platinum Partners

View All Partners