Referees are a much maligned group of people in any sport and its no differant in Rugby League ,but I have always admired these guys , they turn up week in week and make sure that 30 old blokes get their fix of RL and get scant praise for their commitment .
It's a thankless job : They certainly dont do it for any financial rewards and always get plenty of "advice " from the self proclaimed experts on the touchline.
Whitehaven Born and Bred Rugby League referee Gareth Hewer is one such person .He started off officiating in the Cumberland Leagues almost 20 years ago , I know because I played in his first ever Open age game , but more of that later.Through his own committment and abililty Gareth has earned his place on the biggest stage of all ,this weekend when he takes charge of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup Final between Warrington and Hull . Thoroughly well earned and deserved .
Its not very often you can say you were in at the start of something as special this but I want to share this true story with you .
In 1998 I was player coach of Distington ARLFC playing in the Cumberland Amatuer Rugby League . On a wet drizzly Saturday afternoon we made the short trip along the A595 to play Lowca ARLFC in a local derby . We arrives at the Lowca clubhouse to be met by a official from the Cumberland RL Referees Society who informes me that the referee was doing his first Open Age game and asked me to ensure my players conducted themslves accordingly . That guy needn't have worried The game took place and the new ref was none other that Gareth Hewer who had a faultless debut , and the rest as they say is history .
Its been an honour to follow Gareths progress , but most of all its great to say that he is stil the same unassuming ,polite individual who I first came across all those years ago !
Its a long way from Lowca to Wembley Stadium and Im proud to say I was a small part of that journey .
Have a great day Gareth :not only a top ref but a top bloke aswell . No ones earned it more than you my friend !