Toby Popple may have followed his father Kale into refeering but he’s quickly leaving him in his wake.
The Popples were the toast of the Group Nine referees association’s presentation night and it was the younger of the pair taking out the biggest accolade.
In an unusual twist it was Toby who was named referee of the year while his father won the most improved award.
“It was pretty amazing,” Kale said.
With the likes of Bernie Nix, Scott Muir and Jake White past recipients of the award Toby was humbled by the accolade.
Toby got his first taste of refeering first grade this season and was given a real baptism of fire, with his first game the clash between Gundagai and Albury at Anzac Park.
His first goal for next year is to cement a permanent but the 18-year-old has ambitions to officiate in the NRL.
“The future goal is the NRL but hopefully I will move to Sydney not next year but the year after and try to get into the NSW rep squad and go from there,” Toby said.
“Hopefully it could be the start of a career.”
Taking up the whistle six years ago due to his father’s influence, Toby said he’s fallen in love with the job.
“I never thought I would do it, I was always a shy kid and if someone said boo to me I would cry, and now I get out on the field and really enjoy it," he said.
“You get out there, have fun and are the same as the players – you are out there to do the best you can and impress the people you need to.”
Toby was in charge of the Sullivan Cup grand final and thought it and refeering two Weissel Cup finals were highlights.
“It was a good highlight, it was a good game but I think the 18s semi-finals were just as big, if not bigger,” he said.
“Being 18 and refeering 18-year-olds in the semi-finals was pretty good."
Kale, who is the president of the junior league referee association, has been refeering more the last decade but only made the step up to the senior league three years ago.
He was surprised to hear his named called out and thrilled for his son.
“I did not expect that at all, I thought there we so many other referees that could have got it and I was the lucky one that got it,” Kale said.
Group Nine referees association Tony Fletcher said Toby was a deserved winner of the top honour.
“He really contributes other than normal refereeing duties over the weekend,” Fletcher said.
His role with mentoring developing junior referees, particularly young leaguetag referees Sarah-Jane Muir and Molly Keough hasn’t gone unnoticed.
The 18-year-old said helping the juniors coming through was one of the things he likes the best about the role.