DURING his 21 years of being involved on the field, Nick McInerney has become one of the most respected referees and characters in Group Seven.
So it came as no surprise to most that McInerney this year was acknowledged by the South Coast rugby league competition, by being awarded life membership of the Group Seven Referees Association.
“I knew that I was nominated, however it wasn’t until the vote was declared at the annual meeting that I realised I had received the honour,” McInerney said.
“It is great to be recognised by your peers for the work I have done.
“You don’t do it for the awards – I am always a believer in if you say you will do something, you need to give 100 per cent, which is what I have done.
“It’s the same on the field, every referee is out there doing the best they can – we are only human and we make mistakes.”
McInerney has come a long way since refereeing his first senior game in 1997 before making his first grade five years later, in a match between rivals Gerringong and Kiama.
Since then, McInerney has officiated 516 senior games, including 246 first grade matches – two of which were grand finals.
“During my career, there has been many highlights – the obvious ones are the two first grade grand finals in 2008 and 2013,” he said.
“That 2013 particularly one stands out – as it was in the league’s centenary year.
“The game went to golden point and atmosphere and occasion on that day is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
“A close second [that stands out] was also at Nowra Showground – it was a reserve grade grand final in pouring rain and the game finished without a try being scored, final score was 4-3.”
“I also had the opportunity to officiate in a Defence Force World Cup in Penrith, refereeing the Tonga and Cook Islands game, which was a real eye opener.”
During his more than two decades with the Group, McInerney admits he has benefited greatly from his involvement, while also seeing plenty of change.
“The Group Seven Referees Association has great members putting in many hours of time and effort and there have been some great friendships made over the years,” he said.
“Over many years, the footy has been tough to officiate and that stands you in good stead when you get the opportunity to referee at representative level.
“During my time involved, Group Seven has no doubt had it challenges.
“In my early days there were plenty of members, however over the years the number of members has varied and in some years, there were plenty of games to be controlled with few referees available.
“I think the footy in Group Seven has also become more professional which would be due to the increased coverage on television and in media.”
While McInerney admits his success has come on the back of a lot of hard work on his behalf, he has also had plenty of helped during his career to achieve what he had.
“There have been many coaches and advisers over the years that have provided a great deal of coaching and guidance, allowing me to get to where I have,” he said.
“Peter Ryan got me the opportunity to referee in Sydney and that has influenced my career greatly.
“I also got a great deal of guidance from my grandfather, himself a former Group Seven referee and committee member in my early years.
“Refereeing has its ups and downs, and without the support of the coaches and family no referee would be where they are today.”