Age is no barrier to Billy making top grade refereeing debut

MOVING ON UP: Willy Barnes, Billy Greatbatch and Nick Lander before Sunday’s Group 10 premier league game at Cowra. Photo: contributed

MOVING ON UP: Willy Barnes, Billy Greatbatch and Nick Lander before Sunday’s Group 10 premier league game at Cowra. Photo: contributed

LAST Sunday Orange referee Billy Greatbatch became one of the youngest premier league referees in the region.

The 17-year-old chalked up his maiden Group 10 top grade game in the final round clash between Cowra Magpies and Blayney Bears at Sid Kallas Oval, won handsomely by the by home side 68-14.

Greatbatch said it was an “awesome experience”.

“The first 25 minutes was really, really good. The game was quick, and it was close,” he said, with Western Referees Game Development Officer Willy Barnes and Group 10 Referees Association president Nick Lander appointed to run Greatbatch’s touchlines.

“It was great to have two of my mentors on my line which made the experience even better. 

“My family came out as well to support me which was great to have them there.”

Greatbatch has been identified as a future referee with promise, and as such has been handed current National Rugby League first grade referees Ashley Klein and Matt Cecchin as mentors.

Earlier this year, Cecchin went to Oberon to watch Greatbatch referee his maiden first division match.

It was Cecchin’s first venture out to Group 10 territory, and it was an experience he won’t forget.

“I lost a couple of fingers and toes that day,” he laughed.

“The plan was to have a picnic but when we arrived it was minus one. We didn’t get out of the car.

“Billy’s got a wealth of potential. His maturity and dedication to both rugby league and touch footy is brilliant.”

Cecchin said he was blooded into his local first grade competition in Perth as a 16-year-old and says refereeing open age rugby league will help Greatbatch’s game infinitely.

The NRL refereeing veteran believes his mentorship has been extremely rewarding.

“When I was a young bloke I had guys do the same thing for me but they didn’t get paid. We should be doing much, much more of it,” he said.

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