International Rugby League (IRL) has appointed the first three referees to its newly formed Elite International Referees Panel. Top NRL referees, Grant Atkins, Ashley Klein and Gerard Sutton had their nominations from the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) accepted and will take their places in the squad for 2021.
All three officials are part of the NRL Referees squad, refereeing high intensity games week in week out but all three officials have considerable experience of refereeing the international game. All three officials have refereed in World Cup tournaments with Atkins and Sutton making their World Cup refereeing debuts in 2017 and Klein having refereed in every World Cup since 2008, a tournament in which he refereed the final. Sutton also has experience of refereeing the World Cup Final having refereed the final in 2017.
IRL’s Match Officials Manager, Stuart Cummings said,
“It is great to have our first three referees announced for our new squads and these three referees have shown over a number of years that they can deal with the pressure of officiating at a high level in a tough competition. The fact that they are all vastly experienced International referees is of great benefit to the game particularly as we approach the Rugby League World Cup in 2021.”
The Elite International Referees Panel will be made up of eight referees with no one country being able to have more than three referees on the panel. The remaining referees will be selected to the panel as their national competitions come to an end and nominations are received from each country.
All three of the initial appointees are excited by the opportunity. Gerard Sutton commented, “This appointment is an honour and an exciting opportunity at a time when the strength of the international game is surging.” Ashley Klein said, “It is an honour and privilege to be selected. International rugby league is something that has always been at the forefront of my aspirations as an official.” Finally, Grant Atkins welcomed his appointment saying, “I am really pleased and excited to be selected for this new squad. I am looking forward to being part of the Elite International Panel and working with the other officials in the international game”.