Billy the whistle-blowing wunderkid caps off season with awards

REF ON THE RISE: Billy Greatbatch continued his rapid rise into the elite refereeing ranks with two awards at last weekend’s NSWTA Referee Awards. Photo LUKE SCHYULER 0506lsbilly

REF ON THE RISE: Billy Greatbatch continued his rapid rise into the elite refereeing ranks with two awards at last weekend’s NSWTA Referee Awards. Photo LUKE SCHYULER 0506lsbilly

“IT was a massive honour.”

Orange’s refereeing wunderkind Billy Greatbatch had little else to say following last weekend’s NSW Touch Association Referee Awards in Bankstown.

The 17-year-old was nominated for several gongs, which honoured the achievements of referees state wide-in 2013, and came home with two major awards.

Greatbatch was awarded referee of the tournament for last year’s NSW Touch Association State Cup, and NSW Hornets Touch referee of the year.

“I knew I was nominated, but it was a huge surprise to win any at all,” he said.

Greatbatch’s start to 2014 has been just as impressive.

In March, he officiated at the National Touch League, and became the youngest referee in history to obtain his level six, international standard accreditation at just 17 years and three months of age. 

As a result, his invitation to referee at the annual State of Origin and Interstate Challenge in September was confirmed.

He was then given the number one ranking at last month’s NSWTA Junior Regional Championships, despite an ankle injury limiting his match time.

“Everything I’ve been doing in touch is preparation for the State of Origin series,” he said.

“And that will be a way to prepare for the World Cup next year, which I hopefully get the nod for as well. I’m just trying to balance everything at the moment, and enjoy it all.”

While his name is synonymous with touch football in Orange, Greatbatch has also begun seriously pursuing another whistle-blowing career.

He was accepted into the NRL Referees Academy, and has been put through rigorous training sessions once a month. 

He is working closely with his mentor, NRL referee Ashley Klein, to improve.

Greatbatch refereed last Sunday’s under 18s Western Rams trial match at Dubbo’s Apex Oval, before the City-Country Origin game, and said the experience was invaluable.

“I did that game last year too, but not in front of that kind of crowd,” Greatbatch said.

“There must have been 5000 people there for that game. It was an incredible experience, and a taste of what the elite guys go through. Once a month I get flown to Sydney to train. It’s incredibly professional, and tough - they are elite athletes. There is so much more to refereeing that people just don’t see while they’re whinging about it.

“It’s an incredible experience and one I hope takes me further in the sport.”

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