REFEREEING rugby league is 'fun' according to 14-year-old Haylea-Jade Lewis from Wingham.
Haylea-Jade has been controlling games, either in the centre or as a touch judge, in Group Three Junior Rugby League for the past two years. She's now graduated to touch judge for league tag games in Group Three seniors.
Last weekend Haylea-Jade was on the line for a junior league semi-final at Tuncurry when her mum received an unexpected text from leading NRL referee Grant Atkins.
"I was just calling to say a quick hello and pass my thanks to Haylea-Jade for the role she playing refereeing in Group Three,'' Atkins' text read.
"As it is Women in League round the fulltime (referees) squad selected a number of female officials to call and Haylea-Jade was one of them. I will be sending out my on-field jersey from tonight's Manly vs Parramatta game to her as a small token of our appreciation for roles she plays in rugby league.''
"It was a bit a surprise,'' Haylea Jade said.
She comes from a rugby league family. Her dad Luke once played for the Old Bar Pirates. However, it was through her older brother, Aiden, that Haylea-Jade became interested in taking up the whistle.
"Aiden was refereeing a game that I was watching and it looked like fun,'' she explained.
So two years ago she successfully sat for her badge and began working her way up the grades. She can now referee matches up to under 12s and be a touch judge for all grades up to the senior league tag.
"It's just fun,'' she reiterated when asked why she enjoys refereeing.
"People are out on the field enjoying their game and I just like to be involved.''
Haylea-Jade said she hasn't had any problems with players yet. She gets the odd complaint, but nothing she can't handle.
"If they carry on too much I'll just send 'em off,'' she reasoned, although at this stage she hasn't had to use that option.
Haylea-Jade understands that spectators are going to be vocal.
"Especially when they think a wrong decision has been made,'' she said.
"But that doesn't worry me.''
It's a high pressure job, but Haylea-Jade thinks that's part of the attraction of the game.
Haylea-Jade refereed the junior league under 10s girls' semi-final last Saturday and also had a match on Sunday but this was postponed due to the lockdown.
She plays for Wingham under 14 league tag side and is also a representative touch footballer.
Haylea-Jade wants to eventually control senior league matches. She added that Group Three referee officials Tony Hardy and Bev Adams have both been 'really supportive' of her refereeing ambitions.
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