Unlike many referees, Wayne Welsh had never played football before picking up the whistle for the first time.
In fact, Welsh only became a referee following a dare from a work mate.
While his refereeing career might have accidently started as a joke between mates, Welsh said it was the best thing that ever happened.
Northern NSW Football is celebrating Newcastle Permanent Referee Recognition Week from July 20 to 26, thanking the wonderful match officials who make playing football across northern NSW possible.
Welsh has been refereeing for 18 years through Macquarie Football and Northern NSW Football and has developed a deep respect for the beautiful game.
“What I love about refereeing is you get the best seat in the house. Also you’re paid to be there and you’re never wrong. Although that could be disputed,” Welsh said.
“Also serving the football community to ensure there is a fair playing field and being part of the family.
“You never know unless you have a go. It can be very rewarding, entertaining and prepares you for the unexpected.”
Welsh, who sites Jimmy Reeves and the late Warren Miller as his biggest influences, wants to keep helping out where he can in regards to refereeing.
He has plenty of happy memories from refereeing including officiating in the Johnny Warren Football Foundation Celebrity Match at the 2016 National Indigenous Football Championships in Nowra.
Team Mundine downed Team Fozz 4-3 that day in what was an exciting and entertaining match featuring Aboriginal sporting role models and other football legends including former Socceroos, Matildas and A-League players.
Welsh, 60, said patience and understanding as well as ensuring a fair and safe environment were the biggest challenges with refereeing. But there were also plenty of enjoyable aspects as well.
“When you play an advantage and the attacking team scores a goal,” he said.
“And when players and coaches shake your hand after the game to express their appreciation for the service you’ve provided on the day.”