Group 20 rugby league
LOCAL rugby league is at "crisis point" due to a critical shortage of referees and new blood is needed for Group 20's five grades to go ahead as normal, administrators have admitted.
The situation is so desperate the competition has put a call out to all clubs to pitch in and nominate members to take part in a refereeing course on March 9.
Costs for the course will be covered by Group 20, with clubs now likely to be required to provide linesmen and possibly referees for lower-grade games this season.
The call was originally put out last week on the official Group 20 Facebook page, which declared: "We need your support or some games will not start."
The group's director of referees, Neville Hall, said the lack of numbers could have a serious impact on the competition's future if new officials are not recruited soon.
"Without referees, Group 20 is going to die," he said.
"Every week there's 20-odd games and we have to double up sometimes. That's what happens and it does make it hard, but we've taken the job on.
"But we can't be asked to keep going like this. A lot of the referees are getting older I'm 61 and some weeks we lose some to injury. Some have retired.
"Fortunately, the Group 20 management committee has listened and now it's up to the clubs to supply a couple of people each to do the course and help out on home games."
Group 20 secretary Rocco Di Salvatore said the quality of officiating is also at stake.
"There's no good in clubs complaining about referees doing a bad job in first-grade if the ref has been running lines in the earlier games," he said.
"Some of these referees will do that but they run all day and get tired, naturally.
"We'd rather clubs just help us out with linesmen for the junior grades, just so the first-grade refs are fresher.
"We need new blood coming through the ranks or we won't have any good refs taking first-grade games when the guys we've got at the moment give it up."
Anyone interested should contact Group 20 to sign up for next month's course.
"They've got to be thick-skinned, I'll give you the tip, but it's enjoyable. It gets you closer to the game and you're helping out people and doing the right thing," Hall said.