Rugby league referee Chris Nightingale has been nominated for the 2013 AAMI service to refereeing for his long service to refereeing, and his son Andrew, 18, is also a referee. Photo: Melissa Adams
A knee reconstruction ended Chris Nightingale's playing career in 1979.
But that hasn't stopped the lifelong rugby league fan from making a significant contribution to the game he loves.
Nightingale has carried a whistle and touch judge flags for almost 40 years, giving up his weekends in the chilly Canberra winter to do the thankless task of refereeing.
He's used to the abuse from the sidelines and unfortunately knows it's part of the territory.
What he didn't expect was to be nominated for the 2013 AAMI Service to Refeering Award, a national honour to be announced at the annual NRL One Community Awards in grand final week.
Nightingale played from under-8s through to under-18s before facing a difficult choice only a few games after moving from the central-western NSW town of Oberon to Canberra 34 years ago.
''I only lasted three games down here and got the ultimatum from the doctor that I needed a knee reconstruction to play again, or I could referee where I don't get that impact on the knee,'' Nightingale said.
''I know it sounds stupid, because sometimes the abuse you cop from the sideline, but I just enjoy refereeing.
''Most of the time I'm focused on what is happening on the field and very rarely what is happening on the sideline.
''I don't let it worry me as much because I know I've done the best I can.''
An Australia Post investigator during the week, Nightingale's weekends are consumed by the greatest game of all.
He referees junior games on Friday night, officiates anything from under-6s to reserve grade on Saturday and backs up Sunday if required.
He can also be found on the Canberra Stadium sidelines as an interchange official for whenever the Canberra Raiders have home games.
It wasn't long before refereeing became a family affair.
Oldest daughter Katherine, 20, found the bug first, followed by 18-year-old son Andrew when he was old enough to grab a whistle.
''The daughter was the surprise packet because she rarely watched her brother at all, then when she was 14 she wanted to earn some pocket money,'' Nightingale said.
''When Andrew turned 14, he decided to referee as well.
''There were six or seven kids in my son's team who did the referee's course as well, which is really encouraging.''
AAMI will provide $2500 to the winner of the 2013 Service to Refereeing Award when it is announced on September 30 at Sydney's Town Hall.