THANKS to a stellar performance at last week’s 2014 National Touch League (NTL), Orange referee Billy Greatbatch etched his name into international touch football record books.
Greatbatch was ranked inside the top 25 referees in Australia after last week’s championship, and as a result he was awarded his level six, international standard refereeing accreditation.
At just 17 years and three months of age, Greatbatch is the youngest level six referee in history.
To put the achievement into perspective, 50 nations worldwide are members of the Federation of International Touch (FIT), and each country’s accredited referee system is almost identical to that of Australia. Australia has also won every Touch World Cup since the competition’s inception, and Touch Football Australia (TFA) board member Barry McNamara said Australia’s system as the most rigorous and thorough.
“It’s just an incredible feeling. It’s definitely been a goal of mine for the last four or five years,” Greatbatch said.
“Originally, I didn’t think it was ever really achievable, it was always just a goal in the distance, I guess, but once I was awarded my level five it became more realistic.”
Eclipsing the previous record of 18 years and four months, Greatbatch said the enormity of his achievement was just beginning to dawn on him.
“It was definitely one of the best phone calls I’ve ever received,” he said.
“And being able to tell mum and dad was a very proud moment for me too.”
The 2014 State of Origin touch football series in November is the next major tournament on Greatbatch’s radar, followed by next year’s World Cup here in Australia.
“I’ve been confirmed for the State of Origin,” he said.
“It goes all the way up to men’s 55s, and is a three-game series like rugby league. I’d love to get a 20s game, something quick and at my level.
“Then, the World Cup is after that. Normally getting selected for State of Origin is a pretty good indicator you’ll get a spot in the World Cup squad. Obviously you can’t assume anything, but I’d say I’m a pretty good chance.”
Greatbatch said he still has further goals he would like to reach in touch football, but also suggested he may defect to the rugby league refereeing ranks.
“Refereeing a (touch football) World Cup obviously is one, but I’d like to maybe reach number one in the country,” he said.
“In saying that, I feel like I’ve done almost everything there is in touch refereeing now, it might be time for a new challenge.
“I’d love to referee in the NRL someday.”