Busy Saturday’s fine by young Casey player and referee Cambell Utatao
This weekend’s NRL Victoria matches will be played as a Referee Respect Round. Players from all clubs and grades have been asked to acknowledge the work of the referees this weekend by shaking their hands after the game.
In particular, acknowledgment should go to Scott Grady and Monty Beecroft who this week officiate (as per schedula) their 125th matches and also Bryan Allan who is set to officiate his 50th.
It goes without saying that without the mountain of work done by referees each weekend that there would be no games played.
So ahead of the weekend’s matches NRL Victoria took the time to catch up with one of the league’s youngest referees, Cambell Utatao.
Utatao, who also plays for Casey and is a member of the Victorian U16 Squad, is a year eleven student who splits his weekends both playing and refereeing.
The talented junior has also represented Victoria in softball.
But it is during the Rugby League season that he is kept busiest. Cambell will often play a game and also referee multiple matches on any given Saturday. Some as the main referee, and some as a touch judge.
“A normal game day for me would be get here early, help set up, then Referee a couple of games before my game, then play my game” he said.
Utatao who has been around the Casey Warriors since the young age of 7 said boredom and his dad were the main factors behind him getting involved with the refereeing side of the game.
“Just coming down to the games and being bored and having nothing to do. I saw the chance to sign up to be a referee, and dad encouraged me to do it. Now here I am,” he said.
The youngster believes the respect across the league shown towards the referee is in the most part pretty good, “You get the insults here and there, just them talking to you, but nothing bad” he said.
“Knowing all the stuff, what to do, where to be and keeping up with the play is definitely a bigger challenge (than coping with potential abuse),” Utatao explained.
But the state representative’s expansive knowledge of the game as well as feedback from other referees and those that watch his games hold him in good stead to continually improve.
“I think playing makes me a better referee because I know the game and know what to do most the time”
The youngster has further ambitions with his refereeing and although it may at some point take a back seat to his playing would love to one day reach the highest level of the game
“I would love to referee the NRL, that’d be great”.
In terms of pathways the youngster is likely to referee his first representative level games with the upcoming U12 Schoolboys competition.
But all in all, the youngster is just happy being around as much rugby league as possible whether that be as a player or referee.
“I just love the atmosphere of playing with my mates and being involved with the sport” he said.
If like Cambell you would like to get involved with refereeing please contact NRL Victoria.