Outback legends: Boomer Kennedy

There are many types of people who dedicate themselves to rugby league in the outback and Hewartt ‘Boomer’ Kennedy is one of them.

The youthful 61-year-old has dedicated his entire rugby league life to the Roma and District Rugby League. 

Quietly conceding he was born in New South Wales, Boomer moved to the Maranoa when he was 15 and played for Wattles for a decade before taking up his desire of becoming a referee.

In 1988, he officiated his first game in Miles; an Under 18 game whilst he was still playing. 

Boomer puts his longevity in the refereeing ranks down to his passion and commitment to 'the greatest game of all'

The following year, he retired from the playing ranks in order to pick up the whistle exclusively.

After officiating yet another Roma A Grade grand final earlier this year, the outback legend has called full-time on his illustrious whistle-blowing career.

No one is quite sure of the exact number of deciders Boomer has signalled time on for, but most are certain it is between a whopping 25-27.

Moments before Boomer blew time on in his final Roma and District Rugby League A Grade grand final appearance.
Moments before Boomer blew time on in his final Roma and District Rugby League A Grade grand final appearance.

In the last 32 years, it can be said that Boomer has officiated hundreds of games in the state's south west. 

After three years in Roma, he decided to improve his skill by officiating in the Toowoomba Rugby League located 350 kilometres 'down the road' - and he would travel the 700-kilometre round trip each weekend.

This allowed Boomer to return to Roma confident in the extra knowledge and experience he gained in the Darling Downs.

Some of his ensuing career highlights include refereeing the premiership-winning Brisbane Broncos when they visited Roma in 1992 with players such as Alfie Langer, Willy Carne, Glenn Lazarus and Trevor Gillmiester taking part in the match.

Kennedy has also been the man in the middle at Queensland and Australian Schoolboy championships and officiated games on the hallowed turf of Suncorp Stadium.

Not only does Boomer officiate, but this year also coached the Carnarvon Cubs to victory in the Under 14 Broncos Challenge.
Not only does Boomer officiate, but this year also coached the Carnarvon Cubs to victory in the Under 14 Broncos Challenge. ©Emma Dohle/Western Star

Each weekend, he estimates travelling over 500 kilometres to be involved.

To put it in perspective, that's approximately over 7500 kilometres in his own vehicle annually; so including all the extra carnivals he's had involvement in, it's amazing how much travel has been done in his three decades of service.

Boomer puts his longevity in the refereeing ranks down to his passion and commitment to 'the greatest game of all' and encourages any potential up-and-coming referees to consider the pathway and opportunities that are available now.

Officials in the Intrust Super Cup and NRL competitions always start somewhere and the outback is just as good of a place to start as anywhere else.

Kennedy has had some terrific mentors along the way; one of which was the late great Richie Johnson, whose friendship and advice was a major attribution to his continued and prolonged success.

He has also had dealings with the top dogs of the referee ranks, including Eddie Ward, Tim Mander, David Manson and John Topp.

He also gives credit to Tony Maksoud, who at a training camp, showed everyone how to blow the whistle with authority.

Boomer greatly admired his friendship with the late Richie Johnson.
Boomer greatly admired his friendship with the late Richie Johnson.

Boomer has gained the respect of many teams and clubs he has dealt with over the years and is considered to have always done his best on game day.

Watching him officiate his final big dance earlier this year, his reverence was not lost among the players, despite losing a little bit of pace since his first decider in the early 1990s.

Kennedy would like to pass on his thanks for the support and cooperation he has received over the years by the players and clubs in the Roma and District Rugby League and across Queensland - all of whom have contributed to his overall enjoyment as a referee.

Although you'll no longer see the outback legend running around each weekend, he won't be lost to the game, moving onto a new role as Roma's referee coordinator to mentor the up-and-coming officials who aspire to become the region's next Boomer Kennedy.

*Boomer's story is the first in a series of 'Outback legends' that will be shared on QRL.com.au, highlighting the enormous contributions made to keep the rugby league flame alive in the Queensland outback.