WHISTLEBLOWERS: Rugby League Mackay grand final referees Jeremy Meadows (A-grade) and Christian Strang (under-19s).
WHISTLEBLOWERS: Rugby League Mackay grand final referees Jeremy Meadows (A-grade) and Christian Strang (under-19s). Callum Dick

Strang going strong after four decades in the game

CHRISTIAN Strang is a long way removed from his first refereeing start, but his love for the game still burns as strong as ever.

Approaching the end of his 39th season with a whistle, the under-19 grand final referee reflected on his impressive officiating resume.

From Foley Shield grand finals in Innisfail to a deaf State of Origin in 2003, Strang has made a name for himself in the whistle-blowing caper.

He has overseen a host of Mackay A-grade grand finals in his time, and even a handful of Queensland Cup encounters on the touch line, but Strang's eventual rise to a near 40-year referee career was not so obvious early on.

Although his father was a referee, Strang proved the bane of many an official's existence in his early playing days.

"I was probably a little too smart-arsed on the field as a player. I spent more time off the field than on it," he admitted.

"So refereeing seemed a logical choice; a way for me to stay on the field."

Strang will oversee tomorrow's under-19 decider, but he knows his time in the middle is coming to an end.

The wheel has already started to turn; the veteran has already moved into a referee coaching capacity.

"It was a challenge initially. My exceptions as to where I was refereeing-wise needed to be re-evaluated before I felt fully comfortable moving into a mentor role," Strang said.

"I had to take notice of my body and realise I wasn't as quick as I used to be and that it took longer to bounce back."

But once he embraced the idea of teaching the next generation, Strang quickly flourished.

"I've coached at national under-15s for two years and state under-15s and opens for several years. I really enjoy that aspect of bringing the new brigade through," he said.

After nearly four decades in the business, Strang is well-placed to offer his assessment of what it is that makes a good referee.

As many can probably understand, a thick skin is one key trait.

"Somebody who is calm; who knows the rules and how to apply them and understand the impact their decision can have on a game, the players, and be able to moderate that," Strang said.

"You have to be resilient. You will cop some out there. That ability to bounce back and not take it home with you, to be able to see that it's just a game and move on, is incredibly important."

Despite the challenges of the job, Strang sang the praises of his referee family.

It is a common theme from all officials involved in the game in Mackay.

The career referee implored anyone with even a passing interest in the caper to get in touch.

"I would encourage people to look at refereeing as a way to be part of the game," he said.

"It's a good bunch of people with a wide background, and it gives you opportunities wherever you go.

"If you have even a slight inclination, give it a go."

Strang plans to stick around for a while longer.

"On the field, a couple. As a coach I think there's quite a few years left," he said.