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It’s a freezing cold night and a group of 20 referees are ready to start training. Some have started refereeing this year, others have refereed senior competitions for many years, some want to give back to the sport, others do it for the love of refereeing. And all can’t wait to be back on the field.

CDRL Referees Association Executive Officer, Chris Nightingale, says that the referees have been working hard and he is looking forward to them officiating this week.

“We’ve been preparing for it for six months, so very excited to be able to get out onto the field and actually get some football going,” Nightingale said.

This year all the CDRL referees will be taking a pay cut, with senior and junior referees taking a 50% and 25% pay cut respectively. Nightingale says that everyone was fully supportive of the decision.

“The League asked us how we’d look at fees for this year in view of the Clubs, the financial plight of some of the Clubs with no sponsorships. We are in the same boat, all our sponsorships fell over this year, so we haven’t got any of that coming in to us.” Nightingale said.

“But we spoke to the members and they all agreed that they wanted to support the league with a pay cut, so we took different levels for each juniors and seniors. [The feedback] has all been positive, they are all happy to do it -some of them even wanted to go further.”

Like all Clubs, the CDRL Referees organisation has had to adapt to the COVID-19 protocols and guidelines. Before training starts, every participant is required to sign in, answer questions regarding their whereabouts and sanitise their hands. Nightingale says that while it was difficult at the start, it is now part of their routine.

“Once we actually got out onto the training paddock, I won’t say it was easy but it was just a task we had to go through. Setting up our COVID plan, making sure we purchased all the equipment and had it available at training, making sure everyone follows the guidelines. And then obviously once we start, we’ll have some further guidelines about how they are to interact at the actual football fields themselves.”

Jessica Charman is about to start her fourth year as a referee. She has missed being out on the field and can’t wait to start working towards her goals for the season.

“I’m very excited for it because I’ve got a couple of goals I want to meet this year. I’m hoping to do more league tag throughout the year because that’s senior footy, and then I’m hoping to have consistent U12’s and U13’s throughout the year as well.”

The CDRL Referees Association has 15 new referees joining the season this year, having completed courses back in March. Many of the senior referees serve as great mentors to the younger referees, helping them learn skills and prepare for the season.

Charman says that having more people at training has improved the sessions.

“We have a lot of new recruits and a lot have been coming to training more. It’s good seeing the new faces because normally we have a very small group. We’ve been able to have games and stuff like that because there’s so many of us. Normally we can’t.”

Gungahlin Bulls junior Daley O’Donnell is one of the new recruits this season and decided to become a referee so he could give back to the sport he loves.

“I wanted to give back, because I had so many games as a little kid that I could’ve not played but I had a ref so I wanted to do the same thing for a little kid.”

South Tuggeranong Knights junior Billy Perrot is also grateful to get back into refereeing next week.

“It’s my second year, so I’ve done one year before and it was pretty good so I’m excited to get back into it.”

The CRRL junior competitions are scheduled to begin this week, with senior competitions starting on the July 25 weekend.