2023 Tales Of A Junior Referee – Episode 2

Juniors. Round 02.

9am start today. And after a big day at the first senior MAGIC round in NRL WA history, I roll out of bed at 8am and realise my referee shorts are not in the wash.

Into the cupboard to find an older pair. Luckily my bright orange shirt is clean and visible and grab the whistle and jump in the car.

I’m heading to Admiral Park, Heathridge today. The home of the Joondalup Giants. I’ve got all the games on the big field, which is about 5 fixtures and luckily its about 15 minutes from mine, so I get there in plenty of time.

The Temptations blasting on the spotify in the car, and i arrive ready and raring to go.

I pull up and the place is a buzz, as the Giants take on their northern rivals in the North Beach Sea Eagles. Two clubs I’m very familiar with. If there is a better local derby in Western Australia in any sport (yeah I said it) then I’ve not seen it. In the seniors it never matters how the sides are going, its always close and heart felt between the sides.

As I walk to the timekeepers tent to put my stuff down, I wave to young Isaiah Rapana, who while a star in his own right in the U15’s Boys side, he is a new junior referee and has a bunch of games this morning. Getting to the tent I’m greeted by two big names (and people) in WA Rugby League.

Chanelle Edwards (see whole family below) sits in one of the seats, chatting casually with some of her U15 girls players in daughter Bella Houghton and Eston Tiakia. Shes gone full kiwi in her red band gum boots and “swanny” as the cold weather hits Perth. We share a laugh about how we are both too old for this, and I start to put my boots on. And here comes new North Beach junior president in Gershom Adams. Blue Shirt on. Wanting to lend a hand wherever he can. He is a tyro for that club and his afro is visible from a mile away. We do the “bro” handshake and share the typical “we didn’t leave new zealand for this weather” joke.

U12s is up first, and the kids are ready and firing. They come out of the blocks 100 miles an hour and get stuck right in. Whats amazing is the game itself looks like a bit of a mismatch. The Giants are enormous. They aren’t bullies at all and don’t try and run straight through them, but the size difference is noticeable.

But don’t try and tell the Beach kids that. Led by a little firecracker named Xavier Quinn, this rag tag bunch of Sea Eagles give as good as they get. I’ll give you a free glimpse into the future though. A young ball player by the name of Jaxon Tiseli suited up for Joondalup. And he is a beautiful mover. Graceful almost across the grass, he gives a sight as he beats defenders for fun.

The Under 10s are up now, and its a 3 way game, as the Giants have big numbers in this age group. Maroon and Gold play first, but they both come out in the same jerseys. We share a laugh with the coaches as Gold go and swap theirs inside out.

The two teams are ruled by the girls in both squads. Manawa Hawkings and Kuki Unuka are constantly talking, directing and making plays for Maroon, while the Gold side has Kaitlyn Battelly and Ebony Matiu who are always looking to get near the ball.

In the break between the next game, Joondalup Junior President Theresa Newton corners me. She’s like a general. Delegating and dictating tasks like a born leader. She ask “You alright bro?”. I reply “Geez a couple of Egg and Bacon Rolls and a drink wouldn’t go astray”.

And your right. I inhaled those rolls.

And then we throw North Beach into the fray against both teams. Firstly its nice to see that both the Joondalup and North Beach sides had big portions play on the senior day in magic round, and they had an absolute ball. Some kids even go “OMG I saw you there!” which makes me crack up.

I ask who scored a try yesterday to the North Beach team, and all 11 kids hands go up! I respond with “WOW that must have been one high scoring game!”. Young Archie Collis from North Beach is a real character as he talks to me in the defensive line while making plays of his own and scores a couple nice tries. I also want to say that young Liam Ryan, every time he touched the ball, threw the greatest dummy (to no one in particular) I have seen in my time.

After the games I have a quick chat with the Joondalup Coaches, Kiri Smiler and Joe (just Joe). And admire the way their kids play the game, and then have a great conversation with Colin Kleyweg, the North Beach coach. I exclaim how amazing it was that there was a period where the Sea Eagles U10s held their defensive like for about 15 tackles straight. A monumental effort in our junior game. He thanks me and explains how they have been working very hard on that, and you can see by the look on his face how proud he is.

Well I push my old ankles and knees through those fixtures and finish up with the U11s.

Rydah Waaka. Remember that name. He was the “guy”. His play was extremely mature and he just saw the game differently to the others on the field. Don’t get me wrong, he had help. With Koby Farrelly chipping in, with also a cameo from Hemi Adams, who was the nicest, and most destructive prop forward, who ran quicker than the backs on the day.

But all great players need rivals, and the Giants gave them some. Brody Spratt and Taylor Norcliffe were Giants for their team. And gave their team mates the courage to stand up against their bigger opponents. At one point I myself had to brush away a tear, as a Giants player was completely run over by young Adams, only to get up with tears in his eyes and tell the trainer he was fine and to “leave him alone”. He refused to be cowed, as they again and again continued to get in the face of their bigger opponents.

I caught some of Todd Rabig, the Joondalup Coach, comments after the game, and he couldn’t have been prouder of his group. A team effort, they just kept coming, and I admire how the Sea Eagles never let up, and showed the respect a proud opponent does.

As I’m taking my boots off, I think to myself about all the coaches involved in todays fixtures and think that you couldn’t ask for a better junior day, where the coaches are encouraging great rugby league from both sides.

I’m about to leave and I have a great chat with some parents and kids, along with Premiership player Luke Turner. Luke’s a funny and very passionate guy about sport in general. We share a few laughs, but take great joy in just watching the final U9’s game finish for the day, as the future of our sport show their wares.

Little Giants on both teams. Big big dreams….