Byatt named G9’s top ref

Sean Byatt pictured at Twickenham this year with brothers Matt and Robbie.

Being named Group 9 referee of the year came as a pleasant surprise to Tumbarumba boy Sean ‘Pudgy’ Byatt.

“I had no idea until during smoko break on Monday I went on Facebook and saw it,” he said.

“On a dull Monday it gave me a bit of a boost.”

Winning the award was not something that he had even really considered.

“I wasn’t really thinking about it,” he said.

“Some very good refs have got it in the past, and some good refs missed out this year.”

Byatt has been refereeing since he was 15 (he’s now 29) and he reached a point where he realised that his rugby league destiny would be with the whistle.

“I knew I was not going to make it at a high level as a player, because I was only an average player, so I thought I would get as far as I could with this, and have stuck with it.”

Group 9 junior and senior league association referee Mick Kirkman was the one who encouraged and introduced Byatt to the refereeing ranks.

His win is even more impressive considering that he had only refereed three first grade games before this year, having previously refereed junior games. 

According to Byatt, there are a number of factors that make an effective referee.

“It is how you handle various situations you get into; how you handle certain players; building a reputation and building rapport with players,” he said. 

Being a Group 9 referee means Byatt has refereed his brothers Matt, a Tumut Blues forward, and Rob, Albury Thunder captain.

“Matt doesn’t need to argue with the referee, but Rob has tried to do things and get away with them, as all players do, and has not succeeded,” he said.

Byatt’s goal now is to referee more representative games.

“That was my goal at the start of the year, but I didn’t have the best representative season,” he said.

Of course, the Group 9 season itself was cut short this year, by the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It would have been nice to know where it finished, but there is always next year,” he said.