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Martin keen to keep raising his flag

Give Martin Smith a flag or a whistle and he is on his way to doing what he loves – refereeing.

But it’s not easy for the 15-year-old to engage his passion as regularly as he’d like. He was born with a brain condition that has given him disabilities to cope with as he makes his journey in life.

His mother Acacia and aunt Shareen Smith are keen to try to keep him involved with Rugby League – and officiating - in some form.  

“It’s come from the fact he wanted to play the game growing up with his two younger brothers,” Shareen said.

“Our family are diehard Rugby League lovers … Canberra Raiders are our team.

“But Martin Junior was born with fluid on the brain and that’s caused him to face a lot of other difficulties and disabilities.

“It became evident that he couldn’t play, yet he still wanted to be a part of it.”

The Smiths lived in Armidale on the NSW New England Tableland and local club Guyra Spuds was their team.

“The boys played with them and Martin watched and zeroed in on the referees and touch judges. Maybe it was the flags and the whistle but something drew him in,” Shareen said.

“The club was so wonderful and told us ‘We can get Martin to run the sidelines alongside the touchie’.

“That was fantastic for him.”

The family had to travel from Armidale to Newcastle regularly as the bigger regional city had the specialists that Martin needed – his conditions led to another move three years ago to Engadine in Sydney’s Sutherland shire.

Martin’s brothers now play with Como-Jannali Crocs.

Shareen said: “We’re now looking for the same opportunity at another local club for Martin to be included like the Spuds did. He’s too young to be a volunteer and we can’t register him as a player.”

Martin was among the 120 people, who registered for NSWRL’s Inclusion Gala Day on 23 March, which brought together people of all abilities, genders and cultural backgrounds to showcase the different formats of Rugby League.

“Oh my goodness what a day,” Shareen said.

“When we were invited to come to the NSW Rugby League’s Inclusion Day and I told Martin, he was at me all the time about whether it was okay if he brought his footy boots and his flag to the day’s events.”

Affirmative on both counts and officials helped Martin run the sidelines during a physical disability exhibition game.

Shareen said: “His mum told me he didn’t sleep the night before. He was up at the crack of dawn with his gear packed and ready to go.

“I went with him and he pushed himself and he loved it. He told me the people made him feel comfortable and he did the best job he could.”

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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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