Refs head north as the game must go on

LU Logo NRLM
Embed from Getty Images

Hear from the Professional Rugby League Match Officials Inc. as the NRL match official squad relocates to Queensland this week.

This week the NRL is facing one of the greatest logistical challenges in its history, as 12 clubs converge on the sunshine state to keep the competition alive. As all of the Sydney-based clubs, along with the Raiders, Knights and Warriors, prepare to make the move, the game's whistle blowers are also packing their bags.

Earlier in the week, the fulltime match officials were advised they would have to leave their Sydney-based homes and follow the clubs to the safe haven of Queensland. For many, this means saying goodbye to partners, children, family and friends, a sacrifice they are willing to make to ensure the sustainability of the competition.

"We'll have twenty officials and five staff making the trip up to Queensland tomorrow afternoon and they will be based in Brisbane for the foreseeable future" said NRL General Manager of Elite Officiating Jared Maxwell.

"The NRL will facilitate the travel and accommodation of immediate family to ensure our officials can have their support network around them.

"These family members will have to do 14 days of hotel quarantine separately but will then be able to join the officials and be there for them throughout this period."

Maxwell acknowledged the importance of the rugby league community working through this period together and praised the willingness of the match officials to again play their part.

"Our squad members have proven they are resilient and adaptable. They are rugby league fans who love what they do. Their focus remains on doing a good job across the remaining rounds of the competition.

"I'd particularly like to thank the NRL and the ARLC for the empathy and support they have shown by their willingness to include families of our officials."

NRL match official Kasey Badger echoed Maxwell's sentiments.

"You don't start refereeing, and stay refereeing for such a long time, unless you genuinely love the game," she said.

"It's that love for the game that makes us all want to contribute in ensuring the competition continues. 

"We are very supportive of the decision the game has made and recognise the hard work that is going on behind the scenes to make this move happen. 

"We hope to play our part in ensuring the season continues uninterrupted, and hopefully the NRL can provide some entertainment for fans in the community who are doing it tough at the moment." 

Leading whistle blower Grant Atkins will already be in Queensland as the standby referee for tomorrow night's final State of Origin. He now faces the prospect of an indefinite stay. 

"As a group, we understand the importance of serving the game the best we can for the remainder of the season," Atkins said. 

"Many of us are leaving behind partners and children, which is incredibly difficult, however, the support of our families should never be underestimated." 

Speaking about leaving his two young daughters in Sydney, Atkins said, "It's heartbreaking to be honest, but kids have a level of understanding that often blows my mind." 

Chairman of the PRLMO Silvio Del Vecchio reflected on what is an anxious time for many. 

"This is unlike anything the game has ever faced," he said. 

"Our members have always been committed to ensuring the game can continue. 

"This move will be a huge sacrifice. Some will leave behind young families and even pregnant partners, but they know these are unprecedented times and the decision to move was very much a necessary one for the game." 

Del Vecchio thanked the NRL for supporting the officials and allowing families to travel where possible. 

"I want to sincerely thank Jared Maxwell, Gavin Reynolds, and the team at the NRL for making this process as smooth as possible in difficult circumstances. 

"The refereeing department are a small group, but they are working tirelessly, and are also having to leave their families behind to relocate. As fans of the game, that deserves our acknowledgement and appreciation.