League boss congratulates Eddie Ward on decorated career

Queensland Rugby League referees manager and prominent rugby league figure Eddie Ward has today announced his retirement following close to 50 years of outstanding service to the game.

Ward, a former first grade referee who excelled on the big stage in grand finals as well as the State of Origin and international arena, has devoted the past 16 years to the development of the state’s emerging talent in the QRL Referees’ Academy and High Performance Unit.

Eddie Ward in action. Photo: NSWRL Referees Association
Eddie Ward in action. Photo: NSWRL Referees Association

As program manager, Ward played a significant role in revolutionising the way rugby league is officiated across the state, bringing a new era of professionalism across the game.

This ultimately led to the establishment of stronger pathways, a catalyst in many Queensland referees obtaining the skill and confidence to transition into the National Rugby League.

QRL managing director Robert Moore said Ward had made an outstanding contribution across many levels of the game.

“Very few referees have a record that comes close to matching Eddie’s over his 49 years of involvement,” Moore said.

“It’s an incredible list of achievements, but those who know Eddie well will agree that he has never sought accolades.

“One of Eddie’s great strengths has been his approachability and genuine interest in seeing individual referees develop and grow as both match officials and people.

“He has made a major influence in the lives and careers of many referees; and on behalf of the entire rugby league community, we wish him well in retirement.”

Eddie Ward.
Eddie Ward.

Ward, who refereed 650 first grade games, said he had thoroughly enjoyed his time in rugby league.

“It’s been an amazing journey, both on and off the field,” Ward said.

“I’d like to thank the QRL Board, along with all of my colleagues over many years, in particular John Topp who has provided exceptional support for not only myself, but everyone involved in the program.”

Since 2007, six Queensland match officials – Brett Suttor, Gavin Morris, Chris Butler, Peter Gough, Liam Kennedy and Belinda Sharpe – have received full-time contracts with the NRL.

Eddie Ward and Belinda Sharpe. Photo: NRL Images
Eddie Ward and Belinda Sharpe. Photo: NRL Images

A further four Queenslanders have run NRL lines during that same period, including Clayton Sharpe.

Sharpe, who has refereed five Intrust Super Cup grand finals, said Ward had been an exceptional coach and mentor.

“The biggest thing about Eddie is that he’s grown as a person as well,” Sharpe said.

“He refereed in a different era to now but he he’s been able to adapt to the modern game.

“Because he’s been able to evolve so well himself, he’s given referees every opportunity to go as far as they can.”

Sharpe said one of Ward’s many strengths was his ability to find time for everyone, from junior referees to the most senior match officials.

“He just gives and asks for nothing in return,” Sharpe said.

Eddie Ward’s refereeing career

  • Member of the Brisbane Rugby League Referees’ Association for 49 years (1971-2019)
  • Member of New South Wales Rugby League Referees’ Association for two years (1988- 1989)
  • Awarded Life Membership of the Brisbane Rugby League Referees’ Association in 1989
  • Awarded Life Membership of the Australian Rugby League Referees’ Association in 2011
  • 650 First Grade Games (402 BRL, 248 NSWRL/ARL/NRL)
  • Eight BRL (First Grade) grand finals
  • ARL (First Grade) grand final referee
  • Five State of Origin matches
  • Six Interstate matches (prior to State of Origin)
  • Two NSW City v Country matches
  • 10 Test matches (including World Cup games)
  • NRL Video Referee (three seasons)
  • Youngest referee to control a Test match (Australia v New Zealand at 27 years of age)
  • First referee to wear audio equipment during his second NSW City v Country appointment in 1995
Eddie Ward in action. Photo: NSWRL Referees Association
Eddie Ward in action. Photo: NSWRL Referees Association

Off-field service

  • Member of the Brisbane Rugby League Referees Association Examination and Training Committee (1977-1988)
  • Member of the ARL Rules Committee
  • Referees coach (Level 2 – since 2002)
  • Head coach of the Queensland Cup Referees’ squad (2002 – 2003)
  • Manager of the QRL Referees’ Academy and High Performance Unit (November 2003)