NRL Referee Salary 2023: Who Are Highest Paid?

Rugby league is one of the most popular sports in Australia and New Zealand, attracting millions of fans and viewers every year. The National Rugby League (NRL) is the premier competition in the region, featuring 16 teams from both countries. The NRL is also known for its high-quality and professional officiating, which ensures fair and consistent outcomes for the games.

But how much do NRL referees earn? What are the requirements and benefits of becoming an NRL referee? Who are the highest paid referees in the NRL? In this article, we will answer these questions and more, as we explore the world of NRL refereeing.

How Much Do NRL Referees Earn? Salary

NRL referees are among the best paid officials in any Australian sport. In 2019, the NRL and the Professional Rugby League Match Officials Union (PRLMOU) agreed on a historic four-year enterprise agreement that gave referees a significant salary increase.

According to the agreement, the top-flight referees, such as Gerard Sutton and Ashley Klein, will earn over $300,000 annually by 2022. This is a substantial increase from the previous high of around $180,000. The average wage of NRL players is expected to rise to $330,000 in the same period. which means that the referees are not far behind.

The referees’ salary structure is also tiered, which means that the lower-ranked officials will also see their wages increase well beyond the 2018 base of $105,000. The agreement also includes several welfare considerations for the referees, such as access to a full-time sports psychologist.

How to Become an NRL Referee?

Becoming an NRL referee is not an easy task. It requires dedication, passion, fitness, and skill. The NRL has a clear pathway for aspiring referees, which involves several steps and levels.

The first step is to register as a referee with a local rugby league association. There are over 100 associations across Australia and New Zealand that offer training and accreditation courses for referees of all ages and abilities. The courses cover the basic rules, signals, positioning, communication, and decision-making skills required for refereeing.

The next step is to gain experience and improve your performance by officiating local games. You will receive feedback and mentoring from senior referees and coaches, who will help you develop your skills and confidence. You will also have access to online resources and videos that will enhance your knowledge and understanding of the game.

The third step is to progress through the ranks of refereeing by applying for higher-level competitions. You will need to meet certain criteria and standards to be eligible for these opportunities. For example, you will need to pass fitness tests, attend seminars and workshops, undergo assessments and reviews, and demonstrate your competence and potential.

The final step is to reach the elite level of refereeing by being selected for the NRL Referees Squad. This is a highly competitive and prestigious achievement that only a few referees can attain. The NRL Referees Squad consists of about 30 full-time referees who officiate the NRL Telstra Premiership, State of Origin, Test matches, and other major events. The squad members are constantly monitored and evaluated by the NRL Head of Football Elite Competitions Graham Annesley and his team of coaches and managers.

How to Become a Success Referee?

Being an NRL referee is not only about earning a good salary. It is also about being respected, trusted, and admired by players, coaches, fans, and peers. To become a success referee, you need to have certain qualities and attributes that will make you stand out from the rest.

Some of these qualities are:

  • Passion: You need to love rugby league and enjoy refereeing. You need to be motivated and enthusiastic about your role and your goals.
  • Integrity: You need to be honest, fair, impartial, and consistent in your decisions. You need to uphold the values and standards of the game and the NRL.
  • Courage: You need to be brave enough to make tough calls in pressure situations. You need to be confident in your abilities and your judgment.
  • Communication: You need to be able to communicate effectively with players, coaches, fellow referees, media, and fans. You need to be clear, concise, respectful, and assertive in your messages.
  • Adaptability: You need to be able to adapt to different scenarios, environments, rules changes
  • Teamwork: You need to be able to work well with your fellow referees, touch judges, video referees, and other officials. You need to support each other, share information, and collaborate effectively.
  • Professionalism: You need to be able to represent the NRL and the game in a positive and respectful manner. You need to follow the code of conduct, dress code, and media policy. You need to maintain your fitness, health, and wellbeing.

Who Are the Highest Paid Referees in the NRL?

As mentioned earlier, the NRL referees’ salary structure is tiered, which means that the higher-ranked officials earn more than the lower-ranked ones. The NRL does not disclose the exact salaries of individual referees, but it is estimated that the top-tier referees earn over $300,000 per year.

Some of the highest paid referees in the NRL are:

  • Gerard Sutton: He is the most experienced and respected referee in the NRL, having officiated over 350 games, including 10 grand finals, 11 State of Origin matches, and 16 Test matches. He is also the lead referee for the NRL Referees Squad and a mentor for the younger officials.
  • Ashley Klein: He is another veteran referee in the NRL, having officiated over 300 games, including six grand finals, nine State of Origin matches, and 14 Test matches. He is also a member of the International Rugby League Match Officials Panel and has refereed in several World Cups.
  • Ben Cummins: He is one of the most consistent and reliable referees in the NRL, having officiated over 300 games, including five grand finals, eight State of Origin matches, and 12 Test matches. He is also a former player who represented Australia at schoolboy level.
  • Grant Atkins: He is one of the rising stars of NRL refereeing, having officiated over 150 games, including two grand finals, four State of Origin matches, and four Test matches. He is also a former player who played for Manly Sea Eagles in the lower grades.


NRL refereeing is a challenging but rewarding career that offers a lot of benefits and opportunities. NRL referees are among the best paid officials in any Australian sport, earning over $300,000 per year by 2022. They also enjoy a high level of respect and recognition from players, coaches, fans, and peers.

To become an NRL referee, you need to follow a clear pathway that involves registering with a local association, gaining experience and improving your performance, progressing through the ranks of refereeing, and reaching the elite level of refereeing. You also need to have certain qualities and attributes that will make you a success referee, such as passion, integrity, courage, communication, adaptability, teamwork, and professionalism.

If you are interested in becoming an NRL referee or want to learn more about it, you can visit [the official website] or contact [the PRLMOU].

10 Most Asked Questions and Answers

Here are some of the most asked questions and answers about NRL refereeing:

Q1: How many referees are there in an NRL game?

A1: There are two on-field referees who share the responsibility of controlling the game. There are also two touch judges who assist with sideline decisions. There is also a video referee who reviews contentious decisions using video replays.

Q2: How are referees appointed for each game?

A2: Referees are appointed by the NRL Head of Football Elite Competitions Graham Annesley and his team of coaches and managers. They consider several factors such as performance, experience, availability, compatibility, workload, development needs, and rotation.

Q3: How are referees evaluated after each game?

A3: Referees are evaluated by their coaches and managers using video analysis and statistics. They receive feedback on their strengths and areas for improvement. They also have self-assessment sessions where they reflect on their own performance.

Q4: How do referees deal with criticism and abuse?

A4: Referees are trained to cope with criticism and abuse from players, coaches, fans, and media. They have access to a full-time sports psychologist who provides them with mental health support and strategies. They also have a strong support network among their fellow referees and officials who understand their challenges.

Q5: How do referees keep fit and healthy?

A5: Referees have a rigorous fitness regime that includes running, cycling, swimming, gym work, and recovery sessions. They have to pass fitness tests throughout the year to ensure they meet the required standards. They also have a nutritionist who advises them on their diet and hydration.

Q6: How do referees balance their work and personal life?

A6: Referees have a flexible work schedule that allows them to manage their time and commitments. They have a minimum of two days off per week and can request leave for personal reasons. They also have access to a welfare officer who helps them with any issues or concerns they may have.

Q7: How do referees stay updated with the rules and interpretations?

A7: Referees have regular meetings and workshops where they discuss and clarify the rules and interpretations. They also have online resources and videos that provide them with the latest information and guidance. They also communicate with players and coaches to ensure they understand their expectations and perspectives.

Q8: How do referees develop their skills and knowledge?

A8: Referees have a comprehensive development program that includes coaching, mentoring, education, and training. They have individual development plans that outline their goals and action steps. They also have opportunities to referee in different competitions and levels to broaden their experience and exposure.

Q9: How do referees advance their career?

A9: Referees have a clear career progression that involves moving up the ranks of refereeing. They have to meet certain criteria and standards to be eligible for higher-level appointments. They also have to demonstrate their competence and potential to their coaches and managers. They also have opportunities to referee in international events such as World Cups, Test matches, and State of Origin matches.

Q10: How do referees enjoy their job?

A10: Referees enjoy their job because they love rugby league and refereeing. They enjoy the challenge, the thrill, the camaraderie, and the satisfaction of officiating the game. They also enjoy the recognition, the respect, the rewards, and the opportunities that come with their job.

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