WHEN Phil Rainger isn't refereeing touch football games, he spends his time mentoring young whistle blowers.
Phil, 45, is Taree Touch's junior vice president and also the referees' co-ordinator, As a Level 5 referee he can officiate games at national championships. Gaining the highest level - 6 - will be Phil's next goal and he hopes to achieve this before the next World Cup.
Phil's service to Taree Touch and the Northern Eagles Region was recognised at the recent NSW Touch award night where he received the Rod Wise Medal as the NSW Touch Volunteer of the Year. This was for his service at local, regional and State. He's been with Taree Touch since moving here from Narrabri nearly five years ago.
"I wanted top stay involved with the sport when I got here and luckily I already knew (Taree Touch officials) Graham Goodwin and Warren Steedman from the Northern Eagles,'' he explained.
He started refereeing while at high school. Around 10 years ago he decided to concentrate on officiating.
"It was a way of staying involved with the game,'' he explained.
"I've always liked refereeing. There's camaraderie among the referees and I think explaining the rules to the players helps them enjoy the game.''
The National Championships at Coffs Harbour in March is a highlight of his year. Yet Phil is just as happy refereeing games at Taree on Monday evenings where he gets the opportunity to assist young referees.
"It's good to start them out and help them along the way,'' he said.
"Touch is like every sport, we need younger referees coming through and I'll do anything I can to assist.''
Phil also heads to Sydney on Fridays to referee in the Vawden Cup. This is the premier competition in NSW and controlling fixtures there is a challenge Phil enjoys.
The pace is frantic from the opening whistle while the skill levels are sublime.
"It keeps me on my toes,'' he said.