History

The material presented here has been gathered from various sources. The majority of the history has been attributed to the association with major works comprised for the Golden Jubilee (1976) and the 75th Anniversary (2001) by Ken Rodgers LM and Ray Eve LM. Additions have been made by Scott Irvine in 2015. Contributions to this work are referenced where possible.

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1909-1926    1927-1939

1940-1959    1960-1979

1980-1999    2000-2015


The 75th Anniversary Committee – Les Sainsbury LM
The 75th Anniversary committee was appointed on the 20th March 2000. The committee met monthly to make recommendations to the management committee for the celebration of our referees’ association’s seventy-five years in 2001, climaxing with the anniversary dinner on the 7th July 2001. The committee proved to have expertise in many fields. After a design was agreed upon Ron Daley LM was the one who saw the minting of the badge, while Harry Dearness LM , who is very knowledgable on embroidery, teamed up with Ron to prepare the banner.

Mark Flanagan, who has many resources, not only provided expert advice but also had the history of our association processed. Some material appeared easy, like the gathering of refereeing videos; Geoff Mines LM in his quiet way found it challenging but he was rewarded for his efforts. A great effort was made by Ken Rodgers in preparing the history of the association – hours of research, writing and rewriting led to the book available tonight. Ken was disappointed in the lack of memorabilia. The venue, the dinner and the accommodation were in the capable hands of Mick Smith who canvassed venues and prices to make the night a memorable occasion. The quiet achiever, Brendan Wood, became our publicity officer and once he was up and running, the news was spread by fliers, email, radio, phone and any other media to which he had access.

I thank the members for their contribution in time and effort and their input towards the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Brisbane Rugby League Referees’ Association.

Referees Headquarters
For various reasons the BRLRA headquarters has moved from place to place:

1926-30: Gilbert Chambers, 30 Queen Street, City1
1930-34: Queensland Rifle Range Hall, Adelaide Street, City2
1935-58: Queensland Rifle Range Hall, 201 Boundary Street, Fortitude Valley3
1959-69: Lang Park (Mobile shed – used as Wests dressing rooms and clubhouse),Milton
1970:         The Buffalo Club, 2/234 Wickham Street Fortitude Valley
1971:         Wests Club House, Castlemaine Street, Milton
1972-73: Lang Park (Mobile shed relocated – Corner Claxton and Castlemaine Streets), Milton 4
1974-75 Lang Park (Senior conference room – Frank Burke Stand) (flooded 27th January 1974)5
1976-93: Caledonian Club, Cnr Shaftston Avenue and O’Connel Street Kangaroo Point 6
1994-97: Langlands Park Coorparoo and Davies Park, West End
1998-        JF O’Grady Memorial Park, Fairfield (flooded 13th January 2011)

1. Demolished and site is now a part of Brisbane Square.
2. Demolished and site is now a part of ANZAC Square.
3. Site is now part of St James College. The original hall was moved to 342 Water Street, Fortitude Valley and is heritage listed.
4. Decommissioned after 1975
5. Demolished during 2001-2003 as a part of the Lang Park redevelopment
6. Demolished and site is now a part of Story Apartments Complex

The association from 1935 held their meetings at a room in Boundary Street, Fortitude Valley. The Brisbane Rugby League in 1959 offered the use of the mobile area that was used by Wests as their dressing room1. The move at the time was seen as temporary as the Queensland Rugby League wanted the area to be developed. During 1973 a suggestion was made by the Treasurer Danny Moran LM that a meeting room could be constructed over the southern entry gates. The idea was communicated to a member of the the Land Park Trust, but the idea was not carried out. The mobile shed was moved to the corner of Caxton and Castlemaine Streets, which served as a parking area for the grounds. Later on, the senior conference room was used. The room itself was becoming too small for the weekly Monday meetings1.

Ray Wilson LM (Secretary of the time) always had passed the Caledonian Club every night on his way home from work and one day noticed in the newspaper that the club was in financial trouble. On this news, Ray met with the Chieftain of the club to discuss the prospect of moving in on Monday nights for the Monday meetings. The idea was supported and was soon approved. Despite the problems of referees being forced to travel to two places on Monday nights (Judiciary was held at Lang Park), the league soon acknowledged that a permanent move was the best solution due to the space problem1.

In 1976, the BRLRA entered into an agreement with the Caledonian Club to purchase a half interest in the complex at Kangaroo Point. The Association took over the existing debt of the Caledonian Club in return for the equity in the property. The total debt was a sum of approximately $100,000 that was to paid over a ten year period. Under the agreement, the Association had no interest in the financial aspect of the Club’s business and the Association would nominate two members to the Caledonian and Burns Society Committee. Do you remember the bagpipes?

Both Danny Moran LM and Ray Wilson LM were appointed referee delegates to the Caledonian Club. The financial management of the Caledonian Club did not improve over the years that the Association was involved. This ultimately led to the Westpac Bank appointing receivers to the Club and the closure of the Caledonian Club. The Association continued to meet on the premises for some time until the sale of the complex to the Paraplegic and Quadriplegic Association. It should be recognised that the decision to purchase the interest in the Caledonian Club was an important factor in the financial security of our Association.

1998 saw the start of negotiations with the Eastern Suburbs Hockey Club and following meetings with them and the Brisbane City Council, we purchased the Club and leased JF O’Grady Park in 2000 from the Brisbane City Council.

The Story of JF O’Grady Memorial Park 2
The area of parkland near the present site of Fairfield Gardens shopping centre was boarded by the Beenleigh Railway line when it was built in 1884. After damage by several floods of the Brisbane River, the line was redirected to higher ground and the previous railway line became Fairfield Road. After settlement, the land use changed from farmland to war service housing lots.

The former creek that used to flow in the area is evident on a 1936 aerial photograph near the present eastern corner of Victoria and Turley Street, The area appears to used for small forage crops, consistent with the war housing. The land was later turned into a general refuse area after the 1941 flood. The flood damaged the local war service housing. It can be assumed that refuse area become the disposal grounds for the former housing of the area. The 1946 aerial photography shows the refuse area almost within the centre of the Park, removing the banks and the filling in of the former creek.

The formation of the park commenced in 1947 with the acquisitions from War Service Homes and individual owners. It was then known as the Brougham Street Reserve. The canteen was build in the spring of 1967. The park was affected by the 1974 flood and the Brisbane City Council approved a grant for top dressing and the erection of a clubhouse. The present clubhouse was completed by 1975. A plan to alter the Fairfield Road alignment in 1973-74 resulted in rezoning for road widening and resumption, and the creation of Home Street in 1992.

The park is named after John Francis O’Grady, the US Consul in Queensland from 1958 to 1960. He died in one of Australia’s worst aviation disasters, involving the Fokker Friendship VH-TFB – “The Abel Tasman”. It crashed in fog near Mackay on the evening of 10th June 1960 with the loss of 29 lives. Brisbane City Council approved the proposal to name the park on the 13th September 1960.

That same year, Council agreed to a ten year lease to the Athletics Baseball Club for $21 pa on the basis that it be available to schools one day/week and to the Council for public holidays.The Athletics Baseball Club amalgamated with Eastern Suburbs Sporting Association and was granted a 20 year lease in 1974. Approval was also given to the new Eastern Suburbs Sport Association for flood lighting, club house and an equipment storage building.

Immediately after the 2011 flood, the BRLRA reconstructed the complex with $460,000 funding provided by the Queensland Government, Brisbane City Council and corporate donations from Bank of Queensland, Commonwealth Bank, CSIRO and RACQ. During 2012 the grounds were also upgraded by the Brisbane City Council and a full irrigation system installed for the fields.

In 2013 the main building, comprising of the conference and meeting rooms was named the “Tony McGrath Complex” in memorial of the tragic death of the then President and Life Member of the Association.

The Early Grounds
Referees travel to various grounds these days with little trouble; but in the early days, many of the then Clubs had a bad habit of chasing Referees home armed with palings pulled from the fences. For protection, Eric Campbell always carried a water pistol with him and Les Sharp – a Prison Warden, a truncheon. The early grounds were New Farm Park, Albion Flats, Exhibition Grounds No’s 1 & 2, Gilbert Park, Thompson Estate, Pinkenba Oval, Desham Park, Nundah Oval, Bulimba Park, Moore Park No.1, Toowong Park, Kalinga Park and Ballymore Park.

The Stewards
The BRL Stewards were directly appointed by the League with the exception of the referees steward who was selected by the association as required. Generally, members who were no longer active were selected for these positions. The role consisted of duties such as:

Obtaining match cards and official program;
Check footballs (3) for inflation and check use of only current sponsored balls;
Distribute match cards to team managers;
Ascertain that referee and touch judges are in attendance;
Check ball persons and their understanding of their duties and their presentation;
Prior to game check players’ numbers as per program;
Check safety conditions of players’ boots, fingernails, rings etc;
Locate Appointment Official in case of non-appearance of Referee or other relevant matters;
In the event of a Referee not showing, the two captains are called to select a referee from available touch judges;
Fifteen minutes prior to game, notify PA of program changes;
Assemble captains for toss before kick off and inform referee who won toss;
Five minutes before kick off inform team officials of such;
At 2 minutes and 1 minute to start, respectively, request teams and then referee to make way to field;
Monitor and remind ‘on field’ trainers, no scissors or sharp objects to be taken on field;
In the event of a send off, collect charge card for team manager of player involved and;
In the event of any alleged damage or breaches of Code of Conduct brought to the attention of the Steward, he is to convey this to the Host Club Chief Executive and forward a written report to the Divisional Officer at his earliest convenience.

However as Ron Daley LM recalled, the referees were supported by Stewards at Lang Park and these fine gentlemen wore crisply ironed white lab coats and chaperoned us and the teams on and off the field. If that wasn’t enough the Stewards also took great pleasure in dunking you with iced water as you showered after the game.

The Logo and Badges

The Association has had four logos. Before 1949, the QRL logo was used. In 2017 the current logo was adapted returning to a simple badge outline common with the NRL at the time, but with words “BRL Referees”.


The field badges in many cases reflected the Association logo although the QRL Referees’ insignia replaced individual Association badges from 1983.

The Association’s first badge was a shield with a poinsettia in the center.

BRL Badge

Up until the year 1949 the QRL Referees' Badge was worn, but in that year the QRL ruled that each District League strike its own Referees Badge. The Association’s first badge was a shield with a poinsettia in the center.

QRL Referees Badge 1975 to 1982.

QRL Badge 1975-1982

The second badge which was a red poinsettia inside a Q with the words “Brisbane Division” above the flower and the word “Referee” below. The badge pictured was the QRL Referees' Badge of the same period.

QRL Referees Badge 1983-1986

QRL Badge 1983-1986

In the mid 1980’s the QRL Referees’ badge was used, with a cloth QRL logo on the left.

QRL Referees Badge 1988-1993.

QRL Badge 1988-1993

The final design of the QRL Referees' Badge as of 1989. With the advert of cloth badges and jersey screen printing, metal badges were progressively withdrawn.


Brisbane Juniors Referee Badge

This badge featured the distinctive stork and baby logo

Brisbane Juniors Referees Badge 2

Another BJRL referee stork and baby badge, in use until the late 1990's.

ARL Preliminary Badge

This badge was worn by new referees who are in the process of gaining Level 1 accreditation when the National Referee Accreditation Scheme was implemented in 1993.

ARL Level 1 Referee Accreditation

This badge was worn by referees who gained Level 1 accreditation under NRAS.

ARL Level 3 Referee Accreditation

The level 3 accreditation was gained by field experience of 100 first grade games and passing an advanced rule examination.

The Queensland Rugby League Referees’ Board, currently known as the Referee Advisory Board issues 15 year and 25 year service badges.

The former Junior Division Dress Badge.

Junior Division Dress Badge

The former Brisbane Junior Division Rugby League Referees Association produced a dress badge, with the Division’s logo being a stork carrying an infant.

The former Brisbane Division Referees’ dress badge.

Former Dress Badge

The former Brisbane Division Referees' dress badge.

The BRLRA Service Badge.

BRLRA Service Badge

The Association presents special badges to members – for Life Members and for members giving 10, 20, 30 or 40 years service to the Association.

Special lapel badge for the 50 year Jubilee issued in 1976.

Jubilee Badge 1976

Special lapel badge for the 50 year Jubilee issued in 1976.

Special lapel badge for the 75th Anniversary issued in 2001.

75th Anniversary

Special lapel badge for the 75th Anniversary issued in 2001.

Social Events
Over the years, the Association has organised a Christmas Tree function for the wives and children of members and these have been held at various venues including Lone Pine, Mandalay, Bundaleer Park, the Australian Woolshed, Scarborough, Horizon Park, Wet n’ Wild and the Tallebudgera Fitness Camp.

Races for children in their age groups, throwing the broom for women and the Referees 100 yard championship were always held. Football matches against Toowoomba Referees for the Bulimba Cup and cricket games against Rockhampton Referees always held great interest.

The annual after-season smoko for referees only was until 1967 at such places as the Hamilton Town Hall, Bulimba and Kangaroo Point Schools of Arts, Newmarket Memorial Hall, and Kurilpa Hall at West End. Referees wives were entertained with Theatre Parties at His/Her Majesties Theatre and Old Timer dances at the Railway Institute Hall in Edward Street.

The Annual Dinner Dance was introduced in 1968 for the wives and girlfriends of referees and over the years these have been held at various venues around Brisbane including most League Clubs, the Broncos Leagues Club, ‘Gabba Cricket Ground, Parkroyal Hotel, ‘Gabba Greyhound Club and the Italian Club.

Other Points of Interest
Ray Eve LM and Len Jacobson LM served the Association for over 50 years. It was noted in the 1976, that Ray Eve LM served 48 years out of the 50 years of the association’s history. Len Jacobson awarded OAM in 1990 for services to Rugby League. Col Wright played for Queensland and was also Captain.

The following members have served in Queensland Parliament:

The Honourable Mr J Fiherlly MLA Member for Paddington 1912-1924 – Minister for Railways (1918-22), Minister for Justice (1919-22), Minister for Public Works and Treasury (1922) and Agent General for Great Britain (1922-24).
The Honourable Mr P Reeves MLA/MP for Mansfield (1988-2012) – Minister for Child Safety and Minister for Sport (2009-12)
The Honourable Mr T Mander MP for Everton (2012-2015) – Minister for Housing and Public Works (2012-2015)

The following members have had appointments to the New South Wales Rugby League, Australian and National Rugby League competitions:

Chris Bulter, Jim Cox, Kerry Gray, David Goener, Robert Irwin, Peter Kirby, Darren McKenzie, Tony Maksoud, Tim Mander, David Manson, Nick Morel, Peter Murray, Adam Neale, Clayton Sharpe, Brett Suttor, Eddie Ward, Micheal Wise and Shane Woodward.

1936 State Library
Reet Howell Collection State Library of Queensland c1936


Rule Changes
Did you know the distance the defending team had to retire from the play the ball has been changed a number of times? Our game has had the one metre rule, the three metre rule, the five metre rule, and now we have the ten metre rule. The game as we know it today has undergone many changes to the game the referees and players were involved well before some of us came on the scene3.

CM 14 April 1947
Courier Mail 14th April 1947

Listed below are some of the changes to the International Game4 where applicable in Brisbane, not showing the various changes to interchange or rules that no longer exist i.e points for making marks.

1895
Scrum-half to retire behind a scrum until ball was out.
1896
Deliberate knock on would be awarded a penalty.
Scrum-half to feed the ball the same side as the referee was positioned.
1897
Line-out abolished replaced by the optional free kick, a scrum could be elected by the team in possession.
Value of field goal reduced from four points to two points.
Value of penalty goal reduced from three points to two points.
1899
The location of the restart after a try had been scored, either a place-kick if the try had been converted or a drop-kick if the team was unable to convert, was moved from the 25-yard line of the non-scoring team to the halfway line.
After a player had been tackled a loose scrum was now ordered formed to allow the ball to be brought back into play.
1900
Defenders were banned from charging players attempting a place-kick at goal.
The location at which a penalty was awarded against a defender that had obstructed a kicker after the ball had been kicked was changed from where the incident took place to where the ball had landed.
1901
The knocking-on rule was altered. The ball could be re-gathered if it had not been caught cleanly in the first attempt to take possession.
Another change to the knock-on rule meant, provided that the ball did not touch the ground, play would continue uninterrupted if a player dropped the ball into the hands of a player on the opposing team.
1903
Kicking the ball into touch on the full was no longer allowed for any kick except a penalty kick.
The knock-on rule was adjusted so that in the event the non-offending team picked up the ball after their opponents had knocked-on, and even if it had touched the ground, play would continue.
1906
The play-the-ball introduced after a tackle was made.
The number of players on each team was reduced from fifteen to thirteen
If a ball was kicked out of play on the full, a scrum back where it had been kicked from would now be formed
1909
A team could no longer position more than three players in the front row of a scrum, other rows were unrestricted.
1926
The goal-line drop-out replaced drop-outs from the 25-yard line after the ball was played dead by a defender.
A new version of the play-the-ball was created which consisted of two players from each team as acting halves.
1931
The defending halfback would now feed the scrum, while the attacking side would have the loose-head. Previously, the player that fed the scrum had been the attacking halfback.
It became mandatory for each team’s forwards to pack-down into the scrum in a 3-2-1 formation.
Scrums now had to be set a minimum of 10 yards from the touch line and a minimum of 5 yards from goal line.
Players who were off-side at the time of the play-the-ball would now be penalised if they did not make an attempt to get on on-side and interfere with or obstruct an opposing player.
1932
A loose-arm rule is introduced, hookers must now place both arms over the props next to them.
The penalty was changed to allow a team awarded one to have the option of having a scrum rather than a free kick.
1948
The opposing front rows in a scrum were prevented from packing down against each other until ordered to do so by the referee.
1951
A five-yard ruck rule was introduced and applied to both teams, previously there had been a ‘no-yard’ ruck rule. This rule change lasted just one season.
1952
The dummy-half and second-marker were required to stand one yard behind the two men contesting the play-the-ball (abolished 1956)
1954
A team conceding a penalty was required to retire 10 yards.
1956
A three-yard ruck rule replaced the no-yard ruck rule and was applicable to both teams.
1963
The ball leaving the scrum was required to come out behind the second-rowers.
The non-offending team would now be given the loose-head and feed at a scrum resulting from a penalty, this included after the team had kicked into touch.
1964
Scrums would now be set a minimum of 10 yards from the goal-line.
A place kick from the halfway line was used for the kick-off restarting play after an unconverted try.
A penalty on halfway would now be awarded if a kick-off went out on the full.
1966
A five-yard ruck rule, applying to both teams, was implemented; an increase from three yards.
1967
The four-tackle rule was introduced to replace unlimited tackles.
The scrum was replaced by a tap kick at restarts following penalty kicks into touch.
1968
Defending teams would restart with a 25-yard optional kick should an attacking team make the ball dead.
1969
The front-row were required to pack ‘square’ in scrums.
1970
If a player goes down injured the ball is simply given to a team-mate to play rather than the game being halted so a doctor can be called onto the field.
1971
Value of a drop goal was reduced from two points to one point.
The six-tackle rule was introduced, replacing the four-tackle rule.
1981
Temporary suspensions of players, known as the “sin-bin”, are introduced for misconduct.
The differential scrum penalty is introduced.
1982
Loose-head and feed were now given to non-offending team at the scrum.
1983
The value of try was increased from three points to four points.
1984
The handover was introduced if a team was caught in possession after the sixth tackle.
1986
A twenty-metre restart was given when the ball was caught on the full in the in-goal area by a member of the defending team.
1989
The use of the handover was extended to those occasions on the sixth tackle when the attacking team knocked on, kicked out on the full, or ran into touch.
When a scrum took place, all players standing outside it, apart from the halfback, had to stand a minimum of 5 metres back to be onside.
1990
Any players chasing their team’s kick from an offside position were required to remain 10 metres away from the opponent taking possession of the ball. This was an increase from 5 metres.
1991
A penalty would now be given against a defender guilty of stripping the ball from opponent in possession.
1993
A new definition for a high tackle which stated that it was illegal to make contact with the head or neck whether it was done “intentionally, recklessly or carelessly”.
1997
Striking by the defending marker at the play-the-ball was banned.
The requirement for the attacking team to stand a minimum distance behind dummy-half at the play-the-ball was ended.
The 40/20 rule was introduced to reward accurate kicking in general play and to disrupt the pattern of teams having turns at sets of six tackles.
Tackled players were banned from playing the ball forward to themselves.
1998
The zero tackle rule was introduced.
2001
A defending player jumping to catch the ball from an opponent’s kick cannot be tackled mid-air.
A team that finds touch with a kick from a 20-metre optional restart is awarded the loose head and feed at the scrum.
If from a kick anywhere on the field, the defending team takes the ball dead, for example if they place one foot over the dead ball line before playing at the ball, the team must restart play with a goal-line drop-out.
The defending team were allowed to strip the ball in the tackle if no more than two tacklers were in attendance
2004
Should an attacking player be held up by defenders in-goal, they should carry on play with a play-the-ball on the 10 metre line.
2006
Free kicks were now to be taken 20 metres infield.
2010
Possession of the ball made contact with the corner post that player would no longer be considered to be touch in-goal.
2014
Zero tackle from 20m restart.
40/20 restarts, The team that performs a 40/20 kick will restart play with a tap kick 20m in from the touch at the point it crossed the line instead of at a scrum.
Restarts from kicks out on the full, A handover will be awarded when the ball is kicked out on the full on any tackle.
2015
Free interchange was introduced to players who require a concussion assessment.
2016
The number of interchanges was reduced to eight from ten.
2017
The initial tackle from a 20 metre optional restart became a zero tackle.

  1. Ray Wilson, 2016 Pers. Comm.
  2. Trevor McKell, 2013. JF O’Grady Memorial Park Story. Unpublished
  3. David Manson, 2001. Rule Changes in 75th Anniversary 1926-2001 History Book Brisbane Rugby League Referees Association. Unpublished
  4. Wikpedia, 2014. List of changes to the Laws in Laws of the Game, Incomplete Web Page accessed January 2015.

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