Dispute and Resolution

Fees for first grade in 1927 were regulated at 7 Shillings 6 Pence per game, by 1929 were reduced to 1 Shilling 6 Pence per game and due to the Depression in 1931 to nil. Payments were restored in 1934 to 6 Pence (5 cents*) per game of which 3 Pence was donated to the Association funds.

Brisbane Rugby League
Referees Association 1931

1931 Photo

BACK ROW – C McKinnon, T Latimer, R Solly, M Thompson
THIRD ROW – MJ Pettigrew, A Plunkett, C Kilpatrick, JL Davidson, WP Dougall
SECOND ROW – T Freese, F Moynihan, W Moorehead (QRLRA Delegate), FJ Davis, MA Taylor, JJ Brady
FRONT ROW – W Croning (BRL Delegate), JB Quinlan, A Matzdorf, S Russel (President), JW Moore (Hon. Secretary & Treasurer), MJ O’Connor, T. Welfare (JRL Delegate).
SITTING – RJ Eve, VT Simpson
ABSENT – WE Stock, GR O’Brien, J Montgomery. L Waterman, F Smith, CG Westbrook.

The first major dispute came in June 1927 and here under are extracts from the 1928 Brisbane Rugby League (BRL) Annual Report:

In June last year the question of declaring bonuses for Referees officiating at intercity games, on the same lines as the players chosen for these fixtures, was discussed in delegate meeting, consequent on a motion moved and seconded by the then delegates of the QRL Referees Association. It was conceded that the star referee was entitled to these bonuses on the same basis as the players, and decision was made accordingly. Cheques followed in this connection, but were never paid to the individual by the Association; in fact were returned to the League at one time.

With the formation of the Brisbane Rugby League Referees’ Association (BRLRA), the cheques were again forwarded to the Queensland Rugby League (QRL) Referees Association, to finalise the matter, but were returned along with a letter authorising(sic) the delegates of the BRLRA to move the rescission of the minute of June 1926. The motion along these lines, however, was defeated, whilst in the meantime, the constitution of the Referees Association had been accepted, with the exception of the two clauses dealing with the payment of Referees and Association Board.

At a subsequent meeting of the BRLRA, however, the following resolution was carried:- “That this Association refuses to alter its Constitution dealing with payment of referees officiating in intercity games, and demands that all money be paid to the Association, and further that all members of the Association will be unavailable for further BRL matches until this be acceded to.” The receipt of this demand and threat brought the following recommendation by the BRL management committee to the general body of delegates, which was adopted: “That the Referees Association be found guilty of misconduct under the provisions of Clause II (e) of the Constitution, and that in default of recission of motion, contained in letter of 14th June, and withdrawal of that letter by Tuesday 21st June, by 12 noon, the Referees Association be disqualified body of this League.”

The Referees then advised as follows: “We adhere to our original motion, and further, we do not supply referees at any Leagues affiliated with the BRL until this matter be satisfactorily settled.” This meant that the Juniors also came under the threat, and with the automatic disqualification of the Referees Association your League was compelled to form a new body.

The “first” BRLRA was then subsequently disqualified on the 21 June, however fixtures were to be continued 1.

In response to advertisements in the daily press, some twenty odd referees and old players offered their services, and a fresh Constitution was drawn up placing the new body under they direct control of the BRL on the 23 June.2. A scale of bonuses to be paid referees for intercity, senior club, linesmen, and junior games, was also drawn up. The services of Mr L Kearney were enlisted to coach the referees. An improved standard of refereeing was the result, and the association looked forward to promoting even a higher standard among these officials in the coming season.

However, the disqualified referees led by ‘Jack’ Quinlan met soon afterwards demanding access to the association books which by the time were in procession of the BRL 3. This led to an appeal to the QRL to reinstate the previous association after a motion to dissolve the association was defeated during a meeting in early July 4. Later a letter was published by JB Quinlan (President) and JE Jones (Secretary) in late October where a summary to the dispute was made and the appeal was being handled 5. It appears that this letter was the final attempt by the disqualified referees’ for redress and the association formed under the BRL continued to function. JB Quinlan return to officiating in 1929.

In 1928 the then Secretary of the Queensland Rugby Leagues, Harry Sunderland tried desperately to convince the Association to return the to QRL field because of the English Tour that season. His efforts failed and only one member, Cecil Broadfoot left, joined the Toowoomba Association and officiated the Test Match in Brisbane.

Harold Norman Horder (1894–1978)

Australian Test Player 1914, 1921-1922
Inductee Australian Rugby League Hall of Fame 2004
and the one of the 100 greatest players (1908-2007)6

During 1928 to 1930, Harold Horder (1894-1978) was an active referee. Prior to moving to Brisbane, Harold played 86 games for South Sydney between 1912–1919 and 1924, 9 games for New South Wales, 13 Test matches for Australia. He went on to be the NSW Rugby Football League’s top try scorer in 1913, 1914 and 1917 and for each of the four seasons 1913, 1914, 1918 and 1922 he was the League’s top point scorer. Horder was selected to make his debut for Australia during the 1914 Great Britain Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand. He was selected to go on the 1921–22 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain. He also scored a double in Norths’ 1922 grand final win. He scored 102 tries for South Sydney and 50 tries for North Sydney. In his final season at Souths he became the first player to score 150 tries in NSWRFL history. In 1925, Harold moved to the Brisbane rugby league club Coorparoo as their captain coach for two seasons after leaving Souths. He appeared in an Australian film In the Last Stride (1916). He represented Queensland against New Zealand in 1925 and continued playing club football until he injured his knee in 1926. In 1928-30 he was a referee6 and was appointed as touch judge in the 1928 Australia v Great Britain first test 7.

A motor-vehicle salesman in Sydney from 1935, Horder returned to Brisbane in 1937 and was a salesman with Moreton Rubber Works, then with Hirmac Remoulds. For about ten years he was a clerk with Brown’s Transport, retiring in 1960. He was a keen bowler with East Brisbane and Coorparoo clubs. He had married Ruby Anne Clay (d.1975), a book-sewer, at St Pius Catholic Church, Enmore, Sydney, on 8 January 1916. Survived by his son, he died at South Brisbane on 21 August 1978 and was cremated.Although not a robust defender, Horder was one of the greatest attacking wingers of the code, and a good goal-kicker. He rarely used the short kick. His speed off the mark, side-step off either foot and hare-like swerves left worthy opponents flabbergasted and ‘gave the League game a splash of the spectacular’; he was a main reason for it consolidating its appeal as the top winter game in Sydney by the 1920s. A showman, after scoring a try Horder would ‘trot back jauntily, like a peacock with feathers preened’. The mob loved it; they called him the ‘wonder winger’8.

In 1929 saw the BRL vote on a motion to revert back to Rugby Union, Stan Russell voted against this and one other delegate abstained. After the meeting, Stan then got together Harold Horder the Referees Secretary, Vic Jensen BRL Vice President and others held a meeting, went to the BRL with a proposal and had the motion defeated.

Somewhat of a curiosity in the game during the 1920s and 1930s was referee John Barron “Jack” Quinlan. Jack was a sporting nut who enjoyed playing rugby union and boxing in Wide Bay before signing up for the Great War. He was enlisted with the 11th reinforcements of the 9th infantry battalion AIF and saw service at Pozieres, where during the offensive became one of the 23,000 Australian casualties at the battle. He received German gunfire wounds to both arms on the 23rd July 1916. Complications saw Quinlan lose his left arm altogether. His footballing and boxing days over, he returned to Australia on the 11th May 1917 and took up residency at Yeerongpilly.

He then approached the QRL about refereeing rugby league and was given the chance. He rose to the ranks of first grade, controlling Bulimba Cup fixtures, the deciding interstate fixture of 1930 before controlling the roughhouse 1932 grand final between Wests and Carltons. In 1936 at the age of 44, Quinlan retired, and donated the Quinlan Cup contested between Valleys and Wests for many years. Quinlan later served as a BRL delegate for the BRLRA9. Jack was an active figure in state politics for the Returned Services League and Labor party.

Source: The Telegraph 27th July 1936

Jack was also involved in the dispute over the Ithaca election result of 2nd April 1938 where the Protestant Labor Party challenged the declared winner Ned Hanlon of the Labor Party. This dispute which managed to reach the High Court was the news of the time. Jack’s involvement was the distribution of election pamphlets without the name of the printer and his case was dismissed by the magistrates court on the 14th February 1939 to popular acclaim.

During a regular fixture match between Brothers v Carlton, the referee C Kilpatrick in trying to separate two fighting players, ran into a solid punch which knocked him unconscious. He was carried from the field for attention but returned for the last five minutes. The unusual sight of the referee stretched unconscious on the ground seemed to quell the disturbance. No players were dismissed in the game 10.

1932 saw the passing of Jack Roche. Jack Roche was one of the founders of the Queensland Rugby League and an international referee. He performed his first active duties as a referee on behalf of the game in 1909 when the Rugby League code was officially introduced into Queensland and was a leading referee in Queensland for 15 years until his retirement. The Jack Roche memorial at Nudgee Cemetery was unveiled on Sunday afternoon, 1st October 193311.

Close to the end of 1932 season one of the leading referees Alf Matzdorf LM withdrew in protest from games when he was criticized for dismissing the wrong player during the challenge final by a players delegate at the subsequent judiciary hearing 12. Alf returned back to the game in 1935 and was back in first grade12.

BRLRA 1940

In front – T McNamara, S Chambers
Front Row – A Matzdorf (Exam. Board), M O’Connor (Exam. Board), R Sully (Sec.), S Russell (Pres.), F Moynihan (Del. BRL), J Brady (Social Sec.), E Crawboard (App. Board)
Second Row – R White, J Moore, JW Duggan, R Eve, C McKinnon, T Mace
Third Row – H Hudson, G Elley, D Partridge, G Files, GR O’Brien, L Sharp, JE Moynihan
Absent – MA Taylor (V Pres.), T Freese, T Lattimer, F Moroney, W Dougall, S Hawkins, J Quinlan, W Moorehead

1937 brought about the biggest scare the BRL had encountered when the BRLRA objected to the Appointment Board and their decisions.

Courier Mail 23 Mar 1937
The BRL considers action.
Courier Mail 23 March 1937

The BRLRA declared in the press that they were on strike, unless the BRL changed its structure of having club delegates on the Referees’ Appointments Board. The referees felt their views were not being heeded by the BRL and wanted autonomous control of their appointments, without club bias. The argument was fierce, with Peter Scott and the BRL appearing less than sympathetic to their cause, making immediate moves to have members of the BRLRA disqualified and a new Association formed. The dispute took a downward spiral when referees refused to control the first round of fixtures. The BRL hastily organised volunteers to referee so the season could get underway on time and two members of the Appointment Board Messrs Costello and Pedrazzini officiated the two First Grades at the Exhibition Ground.

The action of the BRL deepen the dispute and members of the BRLRA made themselves unavailable again the next week.

Courier Mail 20 Feb 1934
The Association was tired of not having its views heeded after 5 years of objections.
Courier Mail 20 February 1934

The QRL stepped in to arbitrate and assisted in negotiating a new structure for referee appointments. The solution was found by inserting the following amendment to Clause 15 of the Constitution and Rules:-

The Referees Appointment Board for the season shall consist of five members, being two from the Referees and two from the BRL with an Independent Chairman, who shall be selected by the BRL from a panel of six non-active Referees or persons not with active club interests submitted by the Referees’ Association.

The new board elected was S G Schafer (Independent Chairman), S A Talbot and P Scott Jnr (from the BRL) and E A Crawford and A Matzdorf (from the Referees). The decisions of this board were final. With a resolution reached, the League’s suspension of referees was lifted.

Courier Mail 31 Mar 1937
The dispute is resolved.
Courier Mail 31 March 1937

Courier Mail 17 May 1939
Even the best referees found trouble
Courier Mail 17 May 1939

It is of interest that a curtain raiser to the 1937 Bulimba Cup Brisbane v Ipswich round, that the Brisbane and Ipswich referees
played in a match which was refereed by Bill Riordan and subsequently won by Brisbane 5-3. R.C. Walsh scored the Ipswich try and
E. Costello the Brisbane one. Robinson making the difference with a goal14.


  1. Anon, 1927. Another Fight On. Brisbane League and Referees. Association Disqualified. Daily Standard 23 June 1927 p1.
  2. Anon, 1927. New Referees’ Association Formed. The Brisbane Courier 24 June 1927 p5.
  3. Anon, 1927. Brisbane Referees Trouble. The Telegraph 30 June 1927 p2.
  4. Anon, 1927. Referees’ Protest Against the B.R.L. Daily Standard 9 July 1927 p10.
  5. Quinlan, JB and Jones JE, 1927. Statement by Referees. The Telegraph 29 October 1927 p13.
  6. Anon, date unknown.  Harold Horder Wikipedia Webpage accessed July 2018.
  7. Chris Cunneen,1986.  Australia Dictionary of Biography Webpage accessed July 2018.
  8. Gary Lester, 1988. The Story of Australian Rugby League. p98. Lester-Townsend Publishing, Sydney.
  9. Mike Higgison, date unknown QRL History The 1930s & the district concept. Webpage accessed January 2015.
  10. Anon, 1932. Knocked Out Football Referee. Central Queensland Herald 14 April 1932 p19.
  11. Monuments Australia, 2010. Jack Roche. Webpage accessed January 2015.
  12. Anon. Referee Matzdorf Withdraws in Protest. Daily Standard, 31 August 1932, Brisbane p2.
  13. Anon. Redcap Final. The Telegraph, 24 June 1935, Brisbane p18.
  14. Anon. Sensational Cup Draw. The Queensland Times, 26 April 1937, Ipswich p10.

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