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'Favourite place in the world to referee': Sutton ready for decider

Gerard Sutton "didn't sleep that great" on Monday night, tossing and turning as he waited to learn whether he'd be refereeing Sunday's grand final.

And after a review of the preliminary finals, Sutton was awash with "relief" and excitement on Tuesday when it was announced that he'd been appointed to oversee a seventh NRL decider.

The clash between the Panthers and Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium will mark Sutton's fifth consecutive grand final since 2017.

David Munro and Todd Smith will serve as touch judges while Grant Atkins has been selected as the Bunker Review Official.

"You don't get that moment players do when they win a preliminary final and know you're advancing straight away, so it's quite an anxious wait for that whole review process," Sutton told

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"And then for our coaches and NRL administration to deliberate and make a decision. You have a fair bit of anxiety waiting to see whether you'll get the nod, especially when there's a handful of people they can hand the job to and do it more than capably."

Like countless NRL players and staff members, Sutton made huge sacrifices when the competition shifted to Queensland in July.

The premier whistleblower revealed he "left Sydney for State of Origin three on the Gold Coast and didn't return home", only being reunited with his family for the "last few weeks".

"So much work went into making that happen and I know there's a lot of people with family and stuff in Queensland that would love to be reunited with family and haven't had that chance," Sutton said.

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"While there have been challenges, I feel really privileged to have had those opportunities and to be doing the thing I love and be doing it on its biggest day this weekend," he added.

Although he's vastly experienced at the top level, with 22 interstate games on his resume, Sutton will still get butterflies on Sunday.

But he'll trust his thorough preparation - dating back to work he put in during the pre-season - and processes to keep him composed.

"I always get nervous. I think the time you don't get nervous would be an indication that something wasn't quite right. I don't think it matters how many times you've been there," he said.

"If anything, it probably gives you a greater appreciation of just what a challenge and a huge occasion it is.

"And it's always such a privilege to be part of it. It's 12 months of work. In actual fact, it's more than that - it's what [you do] across a whole career to put yourself in a position to get those opportunities."

NRL head of football Graham Annesley said Sutton's consistency throughout the season was rewarded with his appointment, adding that his "big-match experience is invaluable".

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NRL general manager of elite officiating Jared Maxwell said the officiating squad maintained high standards in testing circumstances.

"This has been a year like no other. Like the teams, the officiating squad has operated under extreme circumstances, but their performances throughout have been excellent," Maxwell said.

For Sutton, who will tune-up with running, weights and other conditioning training sessions leading into the game, the chance to take charge of a grand final at Suncorp Stadium is special.

"It's my favourite place in the world to referee, for sure," he said.

"Origin at Suncorp is an incredible atmosphere and a grand final will be something unique again ... To be there for the biggest game of the year, it's a part of history, being the first one there.

"And who knows whether it'll ever go back there again."

Grand final officials

  • Referee: Gerard Sutton
  • Review Official: Grant Atkins
  • Touch Judges: David Munro and Todd Smith
  • Standby Referee: Ashley Klein
  • Standby Touch Judge: Phil Henderson
Acknowledgement of Country

National 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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