WATCH: NRL backs small town ref after video goes viral
A 16-YEAR-OLD Central Highlands rugby league referee has been delivered a personal message from the bosses at the NRL, after a video of him warming up before the game went viral.
Blackwater teen Jack Pidgeon was selected as the Touch Judge Official for the Central Highlands Senior Men's Grand Final game in Dysart.
A video was taken of Pidgeon practising his flag signals before the game, which was shared by The Locker Room (a webshow for Australian sport's fans) on Facebook and has since received more than 1000 comments and more than 1400 reactions.
The Blackwater teen didn't know about the video until the following day, and was initially shocked and annoyed because he knew he would "get a fair bit of rubbish from kids at school".
But, as the video received more coverage, Pidgeon was told that a number of high-level people such as Regan Campbell-Gillard, other NRL players and members of the community had seen and commented on the video in a positive way.
Central Highlands referees supported Pidgeon through the ordeal, and two professional NRL referees made contact with him.
"Gerard Sutton and Ben Cummins have contacted me and told me that the NRL referees were behind me and that they know what it's like to be talked about," he said.
"I received a lot of advice about refereeing from Ben Cummins.
"He told me to keep refereeing and he hopes I will one day make it to the NRL and ref like him."
This has been Pidgeons third year involved in refereeing and being a touch judge official for both junior and senior rugby league games across the region.
He started out refereeing at the Blackwater Junior Crushers Club and has since been supported by the club president, who encouraged players to also become refs.
"I have refereed most weekends for the last three years in both the junior, men's and women's competition except when I have been selected for representative duties for refereeing," Pidgeon said.
This year he was selected to referee at the Junior Crows Trials in Bundaberg, Under 18 and 20 Crows Trials in Murgon, Junior Capra Trials in Gladstone and the Junior Outback Trials in Longreach.
Pidgeon said it was at one of those games that his referee coach pointed out that he needed to work on his flag signals.
"This was why I was going over my flag signals before the start of the Grand Final game in Dysart," he said.
"Bruce Ryan (Central Highlands Ref Coach) warned me before the game that the crowd would be very loud so I would have to make sure my flag signals could be easily read by Tim Steinhardt (the middle referee that night).
"I was extremely excited and nervous as it was my very first seniors grand final game in my first ever senior's final campaign."
Pidgeon will continue to referee rugby league games across the region, pursue it as a career and hopes to one day make the NRL as a full time referee.