• George Sailor moved from Bamaga to Cairns to undertake a refereeing scholarship. (NITV)
Many young men dream of a career on the footy field, but George Sailor wants to be the one holding the whistle.
By
Ella Archibald-Binge

4 Jul 2017 - 12:23 PM  UPDATED 4 Jul 2017 - 12:23 PM

For 17-year-old George Sailor, nothing gets the heart pumping more than taking centre field as a rugby league referee. 

"You get the crowd that are louder than you and you try to make the game flow, and then you blow a penalty and everyone's going 'boo!' and they're all looking at me," says George.

"Then you get times where you make good decisions and people go 'yes, well done, good refereeing'." 

For the past three years, the Torres Strait Islander has been undertaking a refereeing scholarship in Cairns, while studying and boarding at Peace Lutheran College - a long way from his home of Bamaga on the tip of far north Queensland. 

Ultimately, he hopes to become the second Indigenous referee to make it to the NRL.

His dream was born on the footy fields of the Torres Strait, where his father was heavily involved in the game as a player and coach.

From age six, George helped out as a ball boy at carnivals, before his enthusiasm caught the eye of visiting referees. 

"They gave me the flag to hold, and I was like oh this is a special moment," he recalls.

A few years later, at only 14, he was refereeing the Bamaga men's grand final. 

In 2014, he was offered the rare opportunity to take up a refereeing scholarship in Cairns.

'I was like I've got to do this for me and my family.'

"Growing up basically in a remote community is really difficult for some people, because low education and (there's) not a wide range of careers for younger generations," George says.  

"Coming out from the community is a big move from everybody. So I was like I've got to do this for me and my family."

While moving to the city was a big adjustment, George quickly adapted to his new routine. 

He now trains twice a week, and referees from Friday to Sunday - all while studying and boarding at Peace Lutheran College. 

The teenager says his referee training has put him in good stead to take on the role of College Captain at his school this year.  

He remembers waiting with fingers crossed as his school made the announcement at assembly.

"As soon as they announced my name I jumped up and started screaming!" he says. 

Back home in the Torres Strait, his family is just as proud. 

"Seeing me from a shy guy from a remote community, now an outspoken person in Cairns, they're really proud. Mum and dad, they can't stop talking about it, how proud they are," George says.  

Next year, George will move to Brisbane to continue his training, with a view to make it all the way to the national league. 

"If I head up there, it's going to be the most milestone moment of my life," he says. 

And while many have tried to persuade him to swap his whistle for a playing jersey, George won't be swayed. 

"I get one or two coaches come up to me and they say 'would you like to come and play?', and I said oh I don't know about that. I said I love my refereeing, and I'm still in the game."