AS referee numbers dwindle across the Mid-North Coast, it isn't time to throw the baby out with the bath water just yet.
Group 3 rugby league held a crisis meeting on March 31 aiming to provide players and coaches with a better understanding of how officials' minds work.
Referee and development coach Corey Richardson felt the meeting was a step in the right direction as the group looks to push their numbers towards 30 for the upcoming season.
They currently have less than 20.
"It's nothing new to referees; people have panicked more this year than the past because referees have not been as forthcoming," he said.
"We've always had people doubling up in the past, but it's an epidemic throughout the entire regional area of New South Wales."
Currently the group has barely enough officials to cover the four games of action when the season kicks off on May 1 and 2.
Part of the reason is the lack of football due to the COVID-19 pandemic which forced the 2020 season to be called off.
The next is a lack of referees transitioning from the junior ranks into seniors.
"One of the big issues I had with younger kids is that you're feel like you're missing out on things if you're reffing," Mr Richardson said.
"Then last year the older blokes realised there's more to life than refereeing and a lot of them have had 12 months off and it's difficult to keep the fitness up.
"It's easier to find a few kegs than get rid of them."
Mr Richardson was hopeful there would again be a few "late starters" who would contact the group closer to the season start.
"We always find a way to get through, but the biggest concern is fatigue and injury to refs if you haven't got the numbers because they'll have to back up," he said.
"We're no different to players, but I always sold it that if you love the game and can't play anymore, refereeing is a good way to stay involved."
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