HUNTER Valley Group 21 referee Joey Butler will have an opportunity to impress National Rugby League (NRL) officials this weekend.
The 22-year-old Singleton whistle-blower is scheduled to control his first match at the 2017 Women’s Rugby League World Cup (WRLWC) on Sunday evening.
The youngster will be the “man in the middle” for the Papua New Guinea and Canada showdown at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Sydney, from 6.30pm.
This follows a touch judge appearance on Thursday afternoon, which was televised on 7MATE.
Both sides are eyeing off a victory, after England knocked over Papua New Guinea 36-8 and New Zealand hammered Canada 50-4.
Before he went into camp during the week, Butler admitted he was “a tad nervous”.
“There will be a lot of pressure on us to perform well,” he said at the time.
“So, I’ve been training ever since I found out – they’re expecting hot conditions, with all games at Shark Park in Sydney and the main match at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
“It’ll be a big learning curve, however I want to officiate the grand final [on December 2].”
The WRLWC caps off a massive 12-month period for Butler, who also refereed at the National Under-18 Championships in July.
“2017 has been the best year I’ve had to date,” he said.
“I made my Holden Cup debut at Leichhardt Oval – the Wests Tigers v New Zealand Warriors – in September, the day after the Group 21 finale.
“I was then on standby, as a touch judge, for the NRL.
“I also ran the lines [in Holden Cup] on seven occasions throughout the season.
“I’ve got aspirations to be in the NRL full-time – and the WRLWC is a great stepping stone.
“A lot of my friends have said I might never get an opportunity like this again, so I’m taking it with both hands.
“Hopefully, I’ll go okay.”
The modest Butler admits he owes the Hunter Valley Group 21 Rugby League Referees' Association “everything”.
“Matt Edwards, Rod Bowd and Angus Whalley have been fantastic mentors,” he said.
“As a referee, you don’t have many friends, but the other guys in the association have been very supportive.
“I often tell people I only became a referee because I had too many friends – I had to lose some,” he added with a laugh.
“My parents deserve plenty of thanks, as well as my employers Farmers Warehouse (for their understanding towards time off) and fitness trainer Mark ‘Mirrors’ Bercini.”