Sharpe to debut in NRL

MONDAY will be the biggest night of Clayton Sharpe’s rugby league career.

A former Gladstone boy, Sharpe will take to the field in Townsville as a sideline offical for the game between North Queensland Cowboys and Newcastle Knights.

With more than 100 Intrust Super Cup (formerly Queensland Cup) games under his belt, including last year’s final, he has earned himself a spot in the nation’s premier rugby league competition.

Sharpe left Gladstone in 2001 to pursue his goal of making the NRL, now finally there he admitted to feeling slightly anxious.

“To be honest I was a little bit nervous when the appointment came out but it’s just – not a relief – but finally all the hard work that you put in gets you the return,” Sharpe told The Observer.

“It’s still not the ultimate goal – the ultimate goal is to be in the middle, with the whistle, but it still means that I’m on the right track.

“They bring you in, they put you on the sideline for a season or two and if you’re good enough you’ll get introduced into the middle that way,” he said. “So if I go alright this one and a couple more next year and in the next two years (I should be) in the middle.”

Despite being a fully blown Queenslander, Sharpe said he wasn’t that fussed to get his first game in the state.

“It’s good that I’m from Queensland and I can debut in the NRL with a Queensland game but at the end of the day I’d go to New Zealand if I had to, to do it,” the referee said.

Sharpe said the introduction of two on-field referees had been a welcomed change, not only for the game, but aspiring officials.

“It’s created more opportunities that way, it would have been a lot harder to get in without having that two-ref thing.

“But because they’ve got that now it means they need more blokes,” he said.

Receiving a part-time, “multi-skillers” contract with the NRL was no easy task.

“Training’s gone from two days a week to everyday pretty much,” he told The Observer.

Also the referee flies to Sydney six times a month to train.

Sharpe said multi-skiller was a term used for up-and-coming referees.

“Our job is to be touch judges first and then we go into the centre and be referees as well.

“In the squad there are people who are just dedicated touch judges, or sideline officials they call them now.

“The multi-skillers are the ones identified as the batch of referees coming through,” Sharpe said.

The former Gladstone Valleys player is one of four part-time NRL referees not based in Sydney – 2010 is the first year the NRL has accepted part-time adjudicators from outside Sydney.

Steve Kanowski, also of Gladstone, is an Intrust Super Cup sideline official and also referees FOGS Cup games out of Brisbane.

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