LIKE his older brothers Bernie and Gerard before him, former Group 4 referee Chris Sutton is making his mark in the world of NRL refereeing.
The 28-year-old was handed the role of officiating in Saturday’s NRL trial between Parramatta and Newcastle in Armidale, alongside first grade regular Matt Cecchin, in what was his first top grade appointment.
It was only a trial and far from first grade quality but it means his real first grade call-up might not be too far off.
“It’s a progression, like for a player,” Sutton said.
“To get to the top level, whether you are an official or a player, you go through the same experience.
“You have to progress and you have injury setbacks and those sorts of things.
“But fingers crossed, I will get that chance.”
It was just by chance that his first appointment was close to home in Armidale.
Sutton was a Coonabarabran local but, like the rest of his whistleblowing family, he spent many years refereeing in the Tamworth Minor League and Group 4 competitions.
“It’s good to get up here for almost a local game,” Sutton said.
“I got to see some people too, like Barry (Pratten), and some family.”
Older brother Gerard was also there.
He is a regular in the NRL first grade these days.
All three of the brothers have had to work their way through the refereeing ranks in Sydney to make it to the top level and are still working hard.
“I’ve got an under 20s game next week and then I’m on the line for the Tigers/Parramatta game,” Sutton said.
“It’s all good experience.
“My last year was 2005 in Group 4.
“I had two years in the junior reps squad and seven in the graded squad.
“I did the Bundaberg Rum Cup grand final in 2009 or 2010 and I’ve gone up from there.”
Bernie Sutton retired from onfield duties a couple of years ago due to injury and has since been a video ref and now a referees coach, while Gerard remains in the NRL squad.
“He (Bernie) has been given a job as a coach for the under 20s squad, which is now the Holden Cup,” Chris Sutton said.
“So his main role is there and he’s doing well.
“And Gerard has probably done nearly 70 first grade games now and had a good run through the finals.”
Gerard Sutton will referee the Newcastle/Cronulla trial in Tamworth in three weeks but also has an appointment this weekend when the Bulldogs host Newtown in Sydney.