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The term ‘living legend’ is aptly placed on the shoulders of Brian Barry, who turned 100 this month, according to NSWRL Referees Association (NSWRLRA) Executive Officer Greg McCallum.

“He is definitely that and much more,” McCallum said of the man who officiated at the top levels of Rugby League for almost a quarter of a century.

Over 200 people attended a birthday dinner for Barry at the Balgowlah RSL Club in Sydney last Saturday (10 February).

“They laid out a red carpet and Brian sat in a chair at the end of it and greeted each person as they came in,” McCallum said.

“It took a lot out of him but everyone wanted to shake his hand or give him a hug. He is universally loved, admired, and respected.”

Barry has remained an active member of the North Sydney District Rugby League Referees Association despite retiring from officiating in 1978.

He is now an ambassador for the NSWRLRA as the most senior referee and Life Member.

He figured in five first grade Grand Finals in the 1970s, several Interstate Series games (NSW v Qld) before State of Origin started in 1980, and the Australia-New Zealand Test series in 1967-68.

Barry began refereeing in 1954 and handled his first graded game in April 1958 – the match where NSWRL and ARL Hall of Famer Ken Irvine made his debut for the North Sydney Bears

NSWRL Director and NSWRLRA Chair, Kevin Greene AM, presented officiating’s highest honour – the Eric Cox Medal – to Barry in 2022 (pictured above).

The medal is awarded to a graded member of the Association, who makes a significant contribution to the profession for at least 10 years after receiving Life Membership.

“Brian Barry has been a wonderful servant of the game throughout an extensive refereeing career,” Greene told

“His continued service through his amazing contribution to the NSWRLRA is an inspiration to our members. As Brian celebrates his 100th birthday the Association recognises a man who gives generously of his time and his boundless energy.

“We are all blessed to know him and hope he has many more birthdays to come.”

McCallum said Barry had a great sense of humour and was a marvellous story-teller about the game and his experiences as a referee and a touch judge.

One of those stories is now folklore - the Grand Final replay of 1977 between St George and Parramatta on 24 September after the two sides had drawn 9-9 on 17 September.

As one of the touch judges Barry was exiting the SCG pitch after a 22-0 win by the Dragons, when an apple came hurtling through the air and caught him right in the groin.

“They should have found the bloke; he deserved more than an apple – he should have got a box of chocolates it was such a well-aimed throw,” Barry told recalling the incident as he celebrated his 99th birthday.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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