When the news surrounding community sport broke last week, it not only brought a premature end to the Premier Division season but also Josh Attard's time refereeing in the competition.
The Northern Inland finals series was to be a farewell of sorts for Attard as he continues his rise through the ranks.
In 2022, Attard will be leaving Tamworth to study at The University of Newcastle while pursuing higher refereeing honours.
The Carinya graduate refereed National Premier League (NPL) matches in Newcastle throughout 2021, when permitted, and will continue to do so next year.
"I'll be down there full time and hopefully I can move from the 18s to reserve grade NPL and, hopefully, by the end of the year I can maybe get a first grade game under my belt," he said.
Helping Attard get to this point in his career was his involvement in the Youth Referee Academy.
Attard was part of the academy - for referees aged between 16 and 20 - last year before moving into the Northern NSW Football State Referee Talent Pool.
He said it was a really good experience. Being in the academy gave Attard the opportunity to take part in the NPL and he now has his eye sets on other goals.
"I'm in this talent pool at the moment and I do want to get to national championships in the next two years," he said.
"That's a pathway to the Foxtel Youth Leage and then A-League and beyond."
"That's the long distance goal [A-League] but I've got a lot of short term goals."
Along with getting to first grade in the NPL, Attard said he was going to: "Try and get a few gigs in Sydney in the coming year."
The Youth Referee Academy provides education and development opportunities to young referees across northern NSW.
The core objectives are to improve officiating standards, grow match official retention rates and increase the number and quality of Northern NSW Football match officials officiating at the highest levels.
Participants within this academy will receive training and guidance from experienced referee coaches across a two-year mentorship, focusing on technical, professional, and a physical development.