View from the Middle - A RLWC Diary - Week 1

Penrith Referees' member Grant Atkins is no stranger to the Rugby League World Cup. In 2013 he travelled to the UK where he officiated as a touch judge in the prestigious tournament and his efforts saw him rewarded with appointment to the World Cup Final between Australia and New Zealand at Old Trafford.

Fast forward four years, and add a large number of NRL appointments and other significant milestones along the way, and Grant has now been selected to the match officials squad for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, this time as a head referee.

From refereeing junior footy around the local parks of the Penrith District, to now stepping on to the field as one of the top officials in the world, Grant has documented his experiences at the 2017 RLWC to provide an incredible view from the middle of elite officiating Each week we will share Grant's diary from within the camp, allowing our followers remarkable insight into the day-to-day activities of a World Cup match official. A huge thank you to Grant for taking the time to share his story. We hope you enjoy!

RLWC 2017 Diary – Week One

The 2017 RLWC selection was the first step towards becoming a Test Match Referee. Arriving into camp in Brisbane with 23 other officials signaled a real opportunity to perform amongst the world’s elite.

This World Cup experience was set to be different for the 2013 campaign that involved six Southern Hemisphere officials living in apartments and simply meeting up for training with the UK officials. RLWC17 was going to be the opposite. In camp we would be in group meetings, squad transport to and from training, team dinners and the occasional social event.

Training in week one would be a fair blow out, run conditioning, weights and swimming all filled the roster. The heat in Brisbane in late October is very unique, humidity is the toughest thing but nothing like what Cairns would be later in the week. The squad is blending well and on Monday night we were told our appointments. I was to make my Test debut as a referee on October 29th 2017 – Ireland v Italy at Barlow Park in Cairns, the same location I refereed my third game of NRL back in 2013.

The days passed in the week with training and meetings and as the squad numbers dwindled with people heading to all parts of the country, New Zealand and PNG the mood of camp relaxed.

We headed to Cairns on the Saturday and I arranged a fishing trip in the inlet for the UK guys. Being a double header, we had a group of seven. Four hours on the boat netted us around 15 fish, not a bad start for the UK guys who had never dropped a line in the water in their life. It is important to make the most of the locations you travel to.

Sunday arrived pretty quick and with a 2pm kick off in the blazing sun of North Queensland, the importance of hydrating was paramount. Barlow Park is a field surrounded by an athletics track, a small stand and very little opportunity for shade. One moment I always cherish is the anthems. Its in fact one of the only times I get chills during a game. The resounding versions of the Italian and Irish anthems didn’t fail, but now it was kick off time. I was about to become an international referee.

The game offered different challenges to the NRL season. One referee, different styles of play and a different passion for what was at stake. Ireland hopped out to handy lead and went into the break at 20-6. With the temperature sitting at 37 degrees, drinks breaks and a 20 minute half time were implemented. The second half saw Italy fight back but in the end went down to the Wolf Hounds 36-12. What an experience. Moments like these make all the hardships of the season worthwhile.