While some were shocked at Tim Roby’s announcement to quit Super League to referee Down Under, a handful knew he was going to realise a long-standing ambition.
egular customers of Down Under Leisure in the town will know the Wigan Referees’ Society product has been an admirer of the NRL since his school days.
Roby’s family are originally from Wigan, and the 25-year-old worked at the town’s NRL merchandise shop while cutting his teeth with the whistle.
“Moving to Australia is a long time ambition of mine,” Roby told the Evening Post.
“I have grown up watching the NRL.
“I did some work experience at Down Under Leisure when I was at college and I was there when I did my first refereeing exams – I already had a huge interest in the NRL even at that stage, so the people there know full well that this has been a long term ambition.”
Growing up in Leyland and attending Runshaw College, Roby’s initiation into rugby league came as captain of Leyland Warriors and being good enough to represent Lancashire in the old service area team.
But instead of pursuing a career in playing – his experience led him to opt for taking control of matches instead, and has influenced how he approaches his job.
“I was never really good enough to make it to the top as a player,” he said.
“I moved into refereeing when I was 15 or 16. I’m quite strong in the opinion that you should try and understand the views of people playing the sport rather than try and be a schoolmaster.
“As a player, you understand the rules inside and out so you can push as much as you can out of the game. I certainly did that, and as a referee you need to understand that and understand how to manage it.”
Roby flies to Australia in a week’s time and with the Anzac Test between Australia and New Zealand around the corner on May 1, some may suggest, as a neutral referee, he will have landed just in time to find himself in the middle for the clash.
But he is not banking on his 75 games of Super League experience to carry much weight until he has proven himself in his new role.
“On a personal level I have got to go over and prove myself,” said Roby, who first stated his interest in refereeing in the Southern Hemisphere while working with officials from the NRL during the 2013 Rugby League World Cup.
“I won’t be going straight into the NRL but will have to prove my abilities to a new set of people.”