Referee Gavin Badger didn’t know what to expect heading into his final NRL game but what caught him off guard was the number of messages he received congratulating him on a fantastic career.
Badger officially hung up the whistle after running the line as touch judge for Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs vs Penrith Panthers on Saturday. He finished his career ranked third for all matches officiated at first grade level with 354 NRL games.
“All through the week I’ve had text messages and phone calls from players, most of them I don’t even know how they got my number,” Badger told nswrl.com.au.
“There’s been ex-players, current players, on the field a lot of them have come up. It’s been good.
“I’ve heard from Marty Taupau, Adam Blair, Aaron Woods, Gorden Tallis, Josh Addo-Carr, Adam Reynolds. There’s been heaps.
“I was fortunate enough in my debut game that Gorden Tallis was captain of the Broncos so we’ve brought up a pretty good rapport and that has turned into a friendship.
“Marty Taupau’s wife, Michelle, has been pretty close with our family. I’ve known Josh Addo-Carr’s family my whole life, I’m sort of related through marriage to Adam Reynolds. Josh put some stuff up on his social media as well and Adam sent me messages.
“As a referee most of your interactions are generally when they’re aggrieved but I think it’s through my personality and that I’ve been able to build up more than footy relationships with those guys.
“I’m always been one for trying to make sure every interaction I’ve had with someone is positive for both people.”
Badger said the celebrations for his final game were subdued because of COVID-19 but his family were at the game and he had a few beers with the other officials afterwards.
He added that he still had another month to train with the NRL squad even though he would not have a game to control and was still assessing the options for his future.