New Pathways

ROW 6: L Symon, D Gerhardt, J Paton, S Ferguson, T Bennett, G Parker, G Taylor, A Bowman, G McCallum, T Andrews
ROW 5: J Topp, J Wilson, P Murray, S MacDonald, B McKinless, R Greentree, M Smith, M Flanagan, P McPhee, D Saunders (Comm.), D Stuart, S Drummer. J Whitford-Lowe, P Hibberd
ROW 4: David Manson (LM), E Ward (LM), H Dearness (LM), G Albert, J McLeod
ROW 3: L Sainsbury (LM), B Tallon (LM), J Dunne, P Newham, J Hayes, M Bolton, B Adams, M Wise, C McEwan, W Van Dalen, L Beer, J Clarke, D Stubbins (Comm.), J Burns, M McFarlane (Comm.), I Blank (Tres.)
ROW 2: Doug Manson (LM), S Harvey, D Byrnes, D Langenbaker (LM), R Irwin, D Kellett, D Sinclair-Paton, S Berndt, M Frizzel, E Sosene, C Whitford-Lowe, R Grogan, G Long (LM), G Mines (LM)
FRONT: B Pease (LM), D Hutton (Sec.), T Adams, S McLeod, A Gadd, B Briggs, I Irwin (LM, Pres.), M Heit, G Gillespie, A Sideris, J Cosgrove, T Long, B Wood, A Newham, K Rodgers (LM, Patron)


The era after the Brisbane Rugby League competition was one of the BRLRA finding its path in a new administration environment. First-tier games were now managed by the QRL and some of responsibilities of managing referees were delegated to the Australian Rugby League and after 1997 the National Rugby League.

The Brisbane Rugby League premiership was fully superseded by the Queensland Cup competition in 1998 with referee appointments managed directly by the Queensland Rugby League. Hence, the BRLRA re-focused its activities to providing new referees to the pathway of elite rugby league.

The Brisbane Junior Rugby League (BJRL) managed the local junior competitions since 1954. Member clubs had recognized that a change was now required to grow the game into the future and the BJRL was wound up at a meeting at Cannon Hill on Friday, 27 February 2004. A new body known as the Greater Brisbane Junior Rugby League (GBJRL) encompassed the demographics of the juniors in South East Queensland was established in March 2004 with participation from 44 clubs1. The reorganization also saw the Brisbane Junior Division Rugby League Referees Association merged with the current association in 2006, forming the largest rugby league referees’ organisation in the world. In 2014, there were 434 registered members in the BRLRA.

In 2000, the Number One and Number Two Appointment committees due to declining membership were replaced by two referee allocators who appointed referees to the Brisbane Second Division Rugby League and Brisbane Junior Division Rugby League fixtures respectively. This system remained in place until 2013 when the Greater Brisbane Junior Rugby League was reformed into a board structure and appointed three referee allocators albeit members of the association to the task. In 2014 Brisbane Second Division Rugby League also appointed a single referee allocator. In 2015, the newly formed Rugby League Brisbane appointed three referee allocators and oversaw all non Queensland Rugby League referee appointments within the metropolitan area.

In 2002, the management committee was reorganized into portfolios, where the chair (a management committee member) led a subcommittee devoted to an area of responsibility, this continued with a number of changes to the composition of portifolios until 2007. 2008 saw the introduction of the Coaching and Development Manager as a non-official position on the management committee to oversee all referee coaching matters.

Geoff Mines LM2
Longest Serving President
18 Years
1986-99 and 2002-05
A couple of footy seasons ago, rugby league referee Geoff Mines penalised a halfback in a Brisbane second division match. “How long has that been in the rules?” yelped the No.7. “For the last hundred years,” replied the ref. A grizzly old prop poked his head out of the scrum and offered the last word: “You’d know, you’ve been blowing a bloody whistle for every one of ’em.” Well, not quite 100 years. But Geoff Mines has been running around rugby league grounds, from the most obscure suburban junior fields to Suncorp Stadium, for the past 38 years. He’s controlled grand finals at every level from under-11 to reserve grade, and during the 1980s was a regular A grade referee during a boom period when the Brisbane club competition boasted topliners such as Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, Gene Miles, Bob Lindner, Gary Belcher and others who wore maroon and green and gold jerseys.

The 57-year-old solicitor, who runs his own practice in the northern suburbs, is positively upbeat about the role refereeing has played in his life.”When I started refereeing in 1974, I found I enjoyed it more than I thought I would,” he said. “I used to play rugby league, but when I started studying law, I thought playing and training would take too much of my time. “I wanted to remain involved with the game and thought refereeing would be less time-consuming than playing. Little did I know.” As well as being an active referee for 38 seasons, Mines served as president of the Brisbane Rugby League Referees Association for 18 years and was made a life member in 1995. He was also on the board of directors of the South-East Division of the QRL for more than 15 years.

Mines made his A grade debut in 1984 and his baptism of fire came with a Sunday TV Match of the Day at Lang Park between Souths and Wynnum-Manly. “Wally Lewis had captained Australia in a Test against Great Britain at the SCG the day before,” he recalled. “Ironically, Wally wasn’t skipper of Wynnum-Manly – hooker David Green was captain. “But that didn’t stop Wally giving me a good old workout. He didn’t know me from a bar of soap but from the very first scrum he was advising me how to referee. “I was like a fish out of water and a bit awestruck about refereeing the best player I’d ever seen in my life. “He really did take the mickey, but I managed to get through the game OK.”

The next day, Mines indulged one of his keen interests by heading to Eagle Farm for the Brisbane Cup and who should he run into – Wally Lewis and the entire Seagulls team. “To his credit, Wally apologized for giving me a hard time. After that, we always got on well on the field,” Mines said.
“It’s a funny thing. Some of the people who abused me on the field years ago have since become clients of mine as a solicitor.”

The Brisbane Rugby League Second Division by 2010 comprised of 90 teams from 50 clubs playing in seven open grade competitions, and two Under 20 competitions. In 2010, there were 3385 registered players in the League.

On Tuesday afternoon of the 11th January 2011, a flood warning was issued for the Metropolitan area due to the continuing heavy rainfall. By late Wednesday night it was reported that the Brisbane River had broken its banks over the Brisbane Corso in Fairfield. The river peaked around Wednesday afternoon. By Thursday morning water had receded enough to gain access to JF O’Grady Park. There was no water mark on the building as the flood exceeded the ceiling height of the main building.

A significant reform occurred during 2011-2012, where the association in order to strengthen the referee intake into the international game at Under 13’s proposed that the junior referee coaching staff oversee and appoint referees to the various Under 12 competitions. Previously the association only appointed referees to these grades for Chairman’s Trophy and final series games. The proposal later approved by the GBJRL allowed a more systematic approach to appointments to the junior game finals, allowing many referees to obtain their first final after 1 or 2 seasons and significantly improve the pathway and retention of referees.

2013 was a difficult year for the association, where the year saw three presidents and two acting presidents. However, the tragic murder of Tony McGrath on the night of 21st May 2013 at his Woollongabba home was emotionally draining for his life long friends and members of the association. The subsequent police investigation interviewed many of the members and their spouses, as Tony’s last night was spent at JF O’Grady Park in his role of President. The media coverage, funeral, and subsequent court hearings dominated the association’s social talk for some time after this tragic event.

During the year a joint policy between the GBJRL and the Brisbane Rugby League Referees Association was launched ‘Be Positive or Be Quiet’ to continue the good sportsmanship and personal responsibility push. This policy has seen a marked improvement in players and spectator behavior in the game.

Anthony ‘Tony’ McGrath LM3
A Tragic Event and the Court Case
It was a spring morning in Brisbane when Tony McGrath’s limp and bleeding body was dragged out of his burning house. Tony later lost three toes and was being rehabilitated to regain his walking ability. At the time, the cause of fire was uncertain and the cause of Tony’s injuries attributed to possible electrical burns. He was alive, though unconscious, and would later be baffled to learn traces of Valium had been found in his system. Seven months later, in May 2013, something else unexpected was found in the body of the retired accountant. A bullet.

Tony was murdered sometime after 9pm on Tuesday May 21 2013. He’d been dead on his Woolloongabba garage floor for two days before he was found on Thursday night by Ray Girdwood. Even then, it took a CAT scan at the morgue for anyone to notice the bullet lodged in his brain.

On 24th May 2016 after a three week trial, a jury convicted Tyson John Taylor of putting it there, rejecting his pleas of not guilty to counts of both murder and attempted murder. By his own account he hardly knew the man a Supreme Court jury was told had been gunned down at close range in a cold-blooded execution.
In her opening remarks, prosecutor Vicki Loury said Taylor opted to use the “much more effective means” of shooting Mr McGrath after he survived the October house fire, which he lit after a botched attempt to fatally drug the 57-year-old. The 41-year-old unemployed drifter was far better acquainted with Mr McGrath’s supposed fiancee, prostitute Susan Stewart, who the crown alleged had cynically manipulated both men out of “pure greed”. The trial heard Mr McGrath, the president of the Brisbane Rugby League Referees Association, gifted the woman more than $550,000 before he died. When he took the stand, Taylor proclaimed both his innocence and love for the woman – who had mistakenly thought she was to inherit Mr McGrath’s estate – the jury heard. “He was, and he is, a fool,” Ms Loury said.”(He was) completely blinded by his love for a cruel, deceitful and manipulative woman.”But he was also blind to the workings of the Queensland Police Service. So much so, the self-described conspiracy theorist failed to spot the covert officers that surrounded him, disguised as a wide-reaching criminal gang, from November 2013 to February 2014.

While later jobs would involve the sham syndicate collecting fake diamonds and seemingly paying off corrupt cops, Taylor’s induction was born of a less glamorous event: a free buffet dinner. His experience with the hoax gang culminated in a penthouse suite at the Stamford Plaza when he confessed to killing Mr McGrath to an officer posing as the crime network’s boss, before later telling other members he’d also sourced GHB or fantasy to lace Mr McGrath’s wine before the October fire. Taylor also in evidence mentioned the use of potassium that was injected into Tony’ toes when he passed out on the night of the fire. Both divulgences came out of a sense of fear for his mortal welfare, he told the court, with his barrister Peter Nolan also questioning the reliability of the supposed confession. But the jury rejected these suggestions and convicted him, with The Courier-Mail later reporting the 29-strong police operation was in fact racing the clock to elicit the confession.

But if the salacious details of his case attracted ongoing media attention, the words of Mr McGrath’s family after the verdict served as a reminder of the consequences in the bizarre case. “Tony was my brother, confidant, friend, financial advisor and he believed in me,” said his sister Carmel Waugh, who believed his only mistake was falling in love with the wrong woman. Her brother’s killer was, in the words of Justice Martin Burns, a man bereft of any shred of human decency. Tyson Taylor will have to serve at least 22 years behind bars.

In 2015, the association launched a Facebook page that for the first encouraged all members and supporters from the public to contribute to the art of officiating. As at December 2015, the Facebook page had an average readership of 500 views with 600 direct links (likes).  This number increased to 1000 likes by 2017.

In the same year a new senior rugby league structure and the Brisbane Rugby League A Grade competition was reintroduced after an absence of 18 years.


The clubhouse dedication plaque in remembrance of
Anthony McGrath LM

Ian Blank LM, George Long LM, Scott Irvine (sec) and Des Gerhardt LM at the BSDRL Presentation Night 2015

The 2018 season saw the amalgamation of the BSDRL and GBJRL leagues into a single administration entity Rugby League Brisbane and singled the start of a common focus to local rugby league games.

During the season, the National Rugby League introduced a new schema that for the first time classified the performance levels of the game.  Within Brisbane, the schema was:

Tier 1 – National Rugby League (Elite)
Tier 2 – Queensland Cup
Tier 3 – Brisbane A Grade and FOGS Under 20s
Tier 4 – Queensland State Under 15,16,18
Tier 5 – Local RLB games

The new national schema also introduced the creation of an Emerging Talent Academy formed a pathway to high performance tiers of rugby league (tier 4 and above).

2019 heralded a new approach to the junior game, where competition games were only to be played for Under 13’s and older age groups.  Previously the older modified games (Under 11’s to Under 12’s) were seen as a development area for referees to progress into the more senior (international) game.  This policy lead by the National Rugby League, saw a review into junior referee development and changes to the management committee were proposed.


  1. Anon, 2014. History – Brisbane Junior Rugby League, Website, accessed January 2015.
  2. Bernie Pramberg, 2011. Love of the Game: Geoff calls the tune, Courier Mail 12 March 2011.
  3. Australian Associated Press, 2016. Violent ‘fool’ for love faces life in jail, Brisbane Times 27 May 2016.


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