Episode 13: The man in the middle

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Referees are the most scrutinised people in sport. Thanks to the advent of instant replays, every decision they make can be scrutinised and analysed in extreme slow motion.

Refereeing takes a special type of person to turn it into a career but that’s exactly what NRL referee Grant Atkins has done.

Since beginning as a referee in his local Penrith district at the age of 14 he has climbed the ranks to reach the professional ranks and finished the 2017 season refereeing in the Rugby League World Cup.

It’s a tough job that requires both physical and mental training. Atkins explains referees are put through the ringer in the pre-season much like the players. They’ll be asked to row at full pace while being told information they’ll later have to recall.

Just like all humans, referees do make mistakes, and Atkins says that refereeing requires them to be able to compartmentalise their decisions and move on from any mistake they make.

On top of everything, communication for them is key. They need to be able to communicate with players, their fellow on-field officials as well as the bunker.

Throughout this episode Atkins talks through how he ended up with the whistle, what it takes to referee in the NRL, the type of preparation he goes through and how he handles the pressure of the job.

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