February 2022

Gavin Badger: Hanging Up The Whistle

Gavin Badger spent 18 years as a referee in the NRL before it came to a sudden end. Now he's started a new chapter in the game he loves.

The world of professional sport is cut throat. Very few make it there, even fewer make a career out of it. 

For every player and official that runs out on the weekend their every movement and decision is under a microscope.

And while players are often well-written about whether they have a good game or a poor game, no one is watched more closely, yet praised so little than the referee.

But when a mistake is made by the person in the middle holding the whistle, they can be the focus of attention for days, weeks or even months.

Just ask Ben Cummins after the 2019 grand final. Or Matt Cecchin following the 2017 Rugby League World Cup

Sure, their mistakes can impact games in key moments, but at the end of the day they are human. Much like the players they officiate, they can have good games and bad games.

But when’s the last time you heard someone congratulating a rugby league referee for their performance?

Still, there remain men and women willing to put their hand up to take control of matches from under 5s to the NRL and NRLW.

One of them took to the field with either a whistle or flag in his hand 411 times. 

But when his time was up, there was no fanfare. He didn’t even get to referee a final game in the NRL.

“The decision was made for me,” says retired NRL referee Gavin Badger when asked about the end of his career. 

Gavin Badger spent 18 years as a referee in the NRL before it came to a sudden end. Now he's started a new chapter in the game he loves . . .

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1 comment

  1. Nice article, it was a pity the Badger didn’t get to referee a final match. Aways thought he was one of the “better” referees but as he says everyone tries to do their best.
    BTW what do referees get to do at the end of their career? A player who does not kick goals, will usually get to be goal kicker in their last game. Do they get to blow up at a press conference on the quality of the match they just had to referee, “players made too many mistakes, coaches decisions were rubbish – there needs to be an investigation!”?

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