The ‘Southland Referees Association’ was formed in 1895 with 30 members. Most of these members were current players and held fortnightly meetings at the Albion Hotel.
Prior to the establishment of the association, games did have referees in Southland, however there was often great debate in the dressing room around who would take control of the match. It was recognised as rules were amended and added to, uniformity of decision making and interpretation was necessary for good conduct of games.
Mr Alex McRobie was the first president, Mr JR Martin vice-president, and Mr James Manson became secretary. Early referee’s included Robert Galbraith (who the current premier rugby ‘Galbraith Shield’ is named after.)
In the early days, referee’s were appointed via the ‘Hat Method’ – fixtures in one hat, names in the other and drawn randomly. It was however noted on some occasions that appointments were re-drawn. In 1909, Grading of referees was introduced and an appointments board was instituted, using similar processes to the current day appointments officer.
Given the geographical nature of Southland, Rugby Southland Referees as we currently know it, comprised of various sub-associations until the amalgamation into Rugby Southland Referees Inc. in 1998.
The Sub-Associations at various times were Northern, Central, Southern, Eastern, Western and Metropolitan.
Test match referees from Southland are Dave Bishop, Paddy O’Brien and Keith Brown.
Currently, Rugby Southland Referees Inc. do our best to provide referees to all Southlandwide competition fixtures from Under 13 to Premier. This group of volunteers have made a huge contribution to Southland rugby for over 125 years.