NT Rugby Referee Association president Robbie Taylor and rising teenager Angus Cram are at vastly different points of their rugby journeys.
But the joy of refereeing burns bright in both ahead of the Darwin men’s semi-finals this weekend.
“I’ve been full-time refereeing probably seven years ago but probably 10 years in total - I used to run the line at club level and one night one of our old fellas did his calf refereeing the game and said I should do it,” Taylor said.
“I didn’t want to but he won the fight and sure enough I enjoyed it, so I just kept going, refereeing junior games on a Friday night and ended up doing A-Grade a year later.
“It’s great fun but I’m looking forward to taking a back seat sooner rather than later and seeing young refs like Angus and Zoe (Grotaers) take charge down the track.”
Angus, 16, has already refereed more than two seasons after first picking up the whistle to develop his game as a player.
“I play scrumhalf for club and I really just wanted to learn the rules a bit more – you can get away with more on-field than others and you know things other players don’t,” he said.
“I’ve really enjoyed going to different places and also meeting new people through refereeing.
“I’m keen to keep building into seniors and getting a different take on the game.”
Taylor speaks highly of his young charges but warns fewer referees will be developed unless the culture around match official abuse makes a rapid improvement.
“Angus is a top young bloke with a really level head on him, in fact he and his brother have both been terrific, but I’m worried we’ll have less of them coming through because of the abuse.
“(Referee abuse) is out of control in the game and I think the way society is at the moment dictates that to a degree, but at the end of the day, they’re not the ones out in the middle making decisions and giving back.
“You can criticise decision making and I’m still copping shit from the same people who first watched me referee ten years back but when abuse gets personal – and it does - that’s when it’s a serious problem and that’s when it affects me and my family.
“We’ve got good support around us in Nathan (NT Rugby CEO Nathan McDonald)) and it’s a better environment that it has been in a long time but there needs to be a change.”
Both men have strongly encouraged those in the rugby community to take up the whistle next season with Taylor proud to have “the best seat in the house” at Rugby Park.
“It’s cliched and whatever but it really does give you the best access and view of the game,” Taylor said.
Cram added: “I’d just say come down and give it a go – we’ve got a nice community of refs and it’s just good fun and helps your own game as a player.”
There's still one round of Darwin Women's competition remaining with Dargons chasing an unbeaten season but all bets are off when it comes to the men's knockout rounds.
South Darwin will challenge minor premiers Casuarina for a direct line to Grand Final week while Palmerston and Uni Pirates are fighting for their season in the XXXX A-Grade semi finals.
The NT Bitumen & Asphalt B-Grade finals are also shaping up nicely with Swampdogs' 6-0 win over Katherine in Saturday night's make-up fixture clinching a minor semi-final berth against Casuarina.
Katherine's bonus point saw them cling to second place and earn a major semi-final showdown with pacesetters Uni Pirates.