Wyatt Raymond is a professional rugby league referee with his eyes on the NRL and the skills and passion for the game to get him there. JCU’s Elite Athlete program has allowed him to study full-time and balance his university career with time on the whistle. The result? The 22 year-old is in his third year of physio, and has a potential NRL contract on the horizon.
Since starting refereeing at the age of 15, Wyatt has progressed through the ranks, and now travels almost every weekend to officiate state competitions, such as the Queensland Cup.
His love of health and the human body mixed perfectly with his active lifestyle as a referee, and through JCU’s Elite Athlete Program he has been able to balance the two.
“I have a pretty strong interest in the way the human body works and its capabilities and capacity to overcome illness and setbacks that everyone has,” Wyatt said.
“I was at a Cowboys opposed training session on a Friday morning, and the Elite Athlete Program Coordinator in Townsville,Wade Sinclair, said to me, ‘We’ve got this Elite Athlete Program, I’d recommend you apply for it so we can give you help when you need it, so the physiotherapy staff know that you’re involved with it’.
“Ever since I did that in conjunction with the Head of physiotherapy they’ve been so understanding of what I do, and are always making sure that those things are going well and one’s not falling behind the other.
“In terms of placement, all I’ve had to do is put in for special consideration, tell them what I do in conjunction with the Elite Athlete’s Policy and they’ve pretty much met every consideration I needed to have,” he said.
“Whether that be location of placement, timing of placement, what’s required when I’m on placement, if I need to go somewhere for training, or if I need to go to Sydney for a day. There’s been really no hiccups with it, I think it’s been great.”
Wyatt’s physiotherapy skills have also carried over to his refereeing, particularly with the need to rapidly recover from the intense exercise refs have to do on a regular basis.
“A referee can run 11 kilometres in a game, then have a day's break and be expected to do another game two days later,” he said.
“At the same time, mentally, you’re making anything between 300 and 400 decisions a game while you’re doing that physically, it’s not by any means an easy gig.”
“Learning what I have about the musculoskeletal side of physiotherapy has carried over in terms of injury prevention, management, mobility, and what I can do in my own time to make sure I’m fit and ready and preparing as best I can for my weekend games and recovering afterwards.”
Refereeing even occasionally doubles as a study session, with Wyatt’s colleagues in Townsville eager for tips to make sure they’re physical performance is up to scratch.
“I train with a squad of 20 people here in Townsville every Tuesday night, so people are always coming to me for advice on injuries and little niggles and what info you can pass onto them, and who to see, so it’s tied in really well,” he said.
With the end of his physiotherapy course approaching in 2020, Wyatt has a firm plan for the future, with refereeing at the forefront and physiotherapy playing a key role.
“Being a referee is my main goal at the moment, chasing a full time contract in Sydney because that’s where you have to be if you’re lucky enough to get a full-time contract,” he said.
“Full-timers get one or two days off a week during the week, obviously they’re travelling doing games on weekends. I’ve spoken to them a lot about it, most are either teachers, police officers, or running their own business.
“It’s definitely an aspiration to be a full-time referee and then do physiotherapy on the side where I can still maintain those clinical hours year in year out.
“Hopefully the body holds up well and I can retire from footy whenever that time comes and I’ve still touched base with physio and I can run my own business.”
If you’re an elite athlete and are considering where to study, check out JCU’s Elite Athlete Program. If you think having an incredible knowledge of the human body sounds like the career for you, find out more about JCU Physiotherapy.