Far North Coast rugby union referees are sponsored by Lamas and Brown Optometrists. They include, back row from left, David Phillips, Aaron Reid, Michael Carse and Dylan Harris; front row, Ross Wilkinson, Graham Cook and Shaun Lynes. Cook will control his 300th first-grade game in the preliminary final on Saturday and it will also be his 600th game in all in FNC rugby. He started refereeing 24 years ago and hopes to be appointed next week to a grand final for the 23rd consecutive year.
Far North Coast rugby union referees are sponsored by Lamas and Brown Optometrists. They include, back row from left, David Phillips, Aaron Reid, Michael Carse and Dylan Harris; front row, Ross Wilkinson, Graham Cook and Shaun Lynes. Cook will control his 300th first-grade game in the preliminary final on Saturday and it will also be his 600th game in all in FNC rugby. He started refereeing 24 years ago and hopes to be appointed next week to a grand final for the 23rd consecutive year.

Eye for a sponsor

PLAYERS and spectators will never be able to accuse Far North Coast rugby union referees of not having a sense of a humour.

The whistle-blowers were the first ones to laugh when Lamas and Brown Optometrists became their major sponsor at the start of the season.

It's not a first for referees, with eyewear company OPSM sponsoring AFL umpires since 2010.

"The business owner is an avid rugby fan and we all thought it would be pretty amusing," FNC referee Aaron Reid said.

"We cop a bit but we don't mind the sledging as long as it's amusing.

"I suppose they can only criticise us now about our decision-making and not our vision."

Like all clubs competing in the preliminary finals on Saturday, it's also the pointy end of the season for the referees with grand final spots up for grabs.

Reid has been involved in the game for35 years and loves being out in the middle.

Refereeing has taken him to New Zealand and there is a trip to Thailand next month for a rugby sevens competition.

"It's the best seat in the house and most of us are ex-players," he said.

"You put a different hat on when you're out there but it's the love of the game that's kept us all involved.

"The standard of refereeing varies and we have some good young refs that have made it on to junior country panels."

However, they have also lost referees and Reid would love to see more females get involved.

"I encourage more females to get involved because there are some really good women referees in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast," he said.

"Unfortunately we lost a really good young bloke this year because of some crowd abuse and hopefully he will come back to us next year after having a bit of a break."

And who will referee the first grade grand final this year?

"Graham Cook and Steve Williamson are the top two referees in the zone," Reid said.

"Graham has been around for more than 20 years and done more than 20 grand finals so that speaks for itself.

"You really don't want to have a dud game this weekend and miss out on a grand final."