The Otago Rugby Referees Association was established in 1893, making it the first ever Referees Association in New Zealand. The first Chairman was elected in 1894 to be Mr J.R. Montgomery, with Mr W. Wyinks as President of the committee.
At the AGM of 1899 the association was very nearly disbanded, citing the reluctance of ex-players to assist in joining the ranks. This speed bump however was avoided at the threat of having no referees at all and so one of many obstacles was overcome by the ORRA.
In 1920, then President Mr H. McFarlane contended that “it was time the association had a live representative on the Rugby Union (ORFU)”. He wrote a letter to the appropriate figures of the time, which stated “The referees are generally a quiet lot of men, who were rather retiring in disposition and had no desire to create a fuss, or bring about a rumpus. It is for the benefit of referees that I throw out this suggestion to the ORFU to alter it’s constitution so as to allow direct representation from our Association.”
The suggestion was not taken up by the ORFU. Several further approaches were made, all of which were rejected, until 1927 when finally the Association was granted its wish.
In 1930, significant changes were made to the constitution. Members were now to adhere to the following in order to be full members:
- Gain 80% in a written examination.
- Full privileges of membership to be granted only in their second year.
- Those not fitted to become efficient referees were to be advised so.
Membership has fluctuated greatly of the years of our existence, with some years having a waiting list, and others struggling to supply referees for all the Saturday games. For example, 1981 had 108 members but only 88 reported for the 1982 season.
Between the years of 1930 and 1988, the associations of South Otago, West Otago, South Tuapeka and Vincent were at times affiliated with the ORRA as sub-associations, and were formally included as part of a re-structure in 1988.
Social life has always played a large part in the affairs of our Association. From Cricket, to cards, to Lawn Bowls, refereeing has always been as much a serious discipline as it has a medium for mateship. The first ORRA Rugby team played against Pirates Rugby Club in 1894, the game was won 6-3 by Pirates. This has been a tradition which has continued on and off, up until recent years. In 1922 we played Southland Referees for the first time, a game which developed into an inaugural feature for many years.
Today, our association is amongst the most forward-looking and productive in the country. We continue to produce the highest calibre of referees whom ply their trade both at community and representative level. We are very proud of our long history of celebrating success and overcoming difficulties, one which we strive to uphold.
The association is very much entering the technology age and we hope you enjoy the revolutionary product in terms of refereeing, that is our website.
Chris Hart was elected to the role of Chairman in 2015, taking over from Jim Thomson.
Chris played premier rugby for Rangiora, debuting in 1987, and went on to play for Canterbury B and Canterbury. Aged 37 he took up refereeing and has refereed to premier level over the last 9 years.
As Chairman he says his goal is “to make Otago referees the best in the country, by exploring new opportunities and challenging our members to be the best they can be”.
A charismatic leader, Chris has a strong vision for the Association moving forward. When asked what his most immediate priorities are, he would like to “grow our referee base in terms of numbers, and restructure our recruitment and retention so that we can serve our communities to the best of our ability.” This operates alongside our already high-caliber program for training and developing referees at all levels, and across all demographics.