on air now

Bill Harrigan savages NRL Referees boss Tony Archer

National Rugby League Referees boss Tony Archer caused controversy this week after naming the top award for NRL referees after Englishman Russell Smith, a man who refereed only 30 NRL matches

The decision has been widely criticised by the NRL community. Most notably the man the award used to be named after and who also happens to be regarded by most as the greatest NRL referee of all time and the Bill Harrigan.

Speaking on the Macquarie Sports Radio breakfast show, Harrigan spoke of how Archer got rid of the award in his name, “When they first got rid of it back in 2013 after I’d been dumped by the NRL as referees coach I wore it. I just said OK, somebody else in in there, they’ve dumped it, I’ll just move on and get on with life. No point crying over spilt milk.”

Harrigan had made peace with the snubbing until this week when it was revealed that Archer had created a new award, naming it after Russell Smith, “When this year they turned around and they came up with another award (named after) Russell Smith, I thought well Russell he was a decorated referee over in the UK, but here, 30 games and had been an assistant coach. You’ve actually not just snubbed the award that was named after me, but then you’ve got the other blokes like Graham Annesley, Tim Mander, Steven Clark. A multitude of other NRL referees you could have named an award after and I wouldn’t be barking up about it. But when they went and gave it to Russell Smith, UK, 30 games I though now that’s just rubbing it in all our faces.

Harrigan, a veteran referee of 392 first grade NRL games, called for sweeping changes to the refereeing ranks, “There has to be an overhaul, there has to be a change. The referees aren’t happy. The culture in there is not a positive one. It’s not a ‘lets go out and referee this, have a smile on our face and have some fun.’ It was just the wrong way and the wrong attitude. Now the referees, they can’t speak because they’re on yearly contracts and they fear for their jobs. But I know, within them, that they weren’t happy and if you’re not happy, you’re not refereeing well.”

I you want to have your say on the situation you can email at

Listen to the full interview with Bill Harrigan below: