The RFL have promoted three referees to their full-time officiating system.
Liam Rush, Jack Smith and James Vella will fill the vacancies left by the decisions of Robert Hicks and Scott Mikalauskas to step away from full-time officiating, although both will continue as part-time officials.
For Jack Smith, this is a return to the full-time squad. A former Royal Marines Commando who was shot through the chest in 2010 by a Taliban sniper in Sangin, Afghanistan, he had two seasons in the full-time Squad in 2016-17, and has continued to officiate on a part-time basis at all levels including Super League for the last four years.
Now 32, he is also an ambassador for the Lead the Game, a project launched in the autumn of 2020 between the RFL and the UK Armed Forces Rugby League to offer veterans a structured pathway towards match officiating.
Liam Rush will become the youngest member of the full-time squad at the age of 21, although he has gained significant experience in two seasons on the Grade 1 list, including at Super League level.
James Vella is from Australia, having started refereeing with the St George society in Sydney, but has become a valuable addition to the RFL’s Grade 1 list since arriving in England. He is also 32.
Steve Ganson, the RFL’s Head of Match Officials, said: “First, on behalf of the RFL and the wider game I thank Scott Mikaluaskas for his five years on the full-time panel, following his decision to step away for personal and professional reasons. Scott has been a valuable member of our squad – and like Robert Hicks, whose departure from the full-time squad was announced recently, it is very good news that he will remain available as a part-time official.
“The Full-Time Squad for 2022 has a good blend of experience and some new faces who I am sure will take the opportunities they will be presented with throughout 2022 and beyond. Liam, Jack and James will join us for the start of our off-season programme in December.”
Scott Mikalauskas said: “I’ve decided to take a step back into a part time role for a number of reasons – ultimately family comes first, and this will allow me to stay involved at the highest levels of the game but also have the opportunity to follow a long-term employment opportunity away from rugby. I’ll still be involved with the select group of officials as a referee and touch judge and use my experience to help the current group and hope to stay involved in the professional game on matchdays for many years to come.”
The Full-Time Match Officials Squad for 2022 is:
Ben Thaler (joined 2006)
James Child (joined 2010)
Chris Kendall (joined 2015)
Liam Moore (joined 2017)
Tom Grant (joined 2018)
Marcus Griffiths (joined 2019)
Jack Smith (rejoined 2022)
Liam Rush (joined 2022)
James Vella (joined 2022)