Vale William (Bill) Radford

Vale William (Bill) Radford

Bill of Kiama passed away in October aged 88 years commenced playing rugby league in Shellharbour in 1944 in the junior competition (Under 19 years) and they won the premiership in 44 and were beaten in the grand final in 45. Kicked field goals regularly then worth three points. Was named as one of the areas most promising players in a newspaper report.

Moved into the senior grades playing in half back and full back position and was a handy goal kicker. In 1952 represented South Coast Seconds against Illawarra at Kiama Showground.

He gained his referees ticket in 1957 and soon became one of the top whistle blowers in Group 7. Bill controlled the under 18 grand finals in 1960, 1963 and 1966, reserve grade in 1962 and four consecutive first grade grand finals in 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970.

As the 1969 game ended in a draw and was replayed he actually did five games. The four in a row was a record until surpassed by Lex Montgomery 1985-89. After reserves in 1971 he also did the first grade in 1972 and with appointments as touch judge was part of grand final days for almost twenty years.

He was touch judge for the international game France v Southern Division in 1964 at Wollongong Showground, refereed Western Australia v Group 7 at Kiama in 1968 (the only time an interstate team played in the area) and a NSW v Queensland primary schools game also at Kiama.

In an official capacity Bill served the Group 7 Referees Association as president, vice president, secretary and treasurer and delegate to Group 7.

In 1976 he was elected to the NSWRL referees examination board a position he held for nineteen years and took part in the training and examination of candidates throughout the state. Being part of the state board necessitated driving to Sydney every Thursday night from March to October, staying overnight at the home of a member of the board at Revesby and leaving early next morning to be back at Dunmore in time for work.

Locally referee training classes were held weekly at the Radfords home in Kiama before moving to the Group 7 Leagues Club. For a number of years he was a member of Group 7 Referees Appointments Board.

Bill was made a life member of the Group 7 Referees Association in 1973 and South Coast Group Seven Rugby League in 1994 – the same year that he was presented with a merit award by the Country Rugby League and also was a recipient of meritorious service award from CRL referees association and the Bill Radford trophy for the Most Improved Referee in Group 7 is presented annually.

During his years of refereeing he had great support from wife Nola and family there was a very close bond between the referees and their families and Bill and Nola made many life long friends.

He was a Director of Group 7 leagues club for several years.

Bill was also a member of the Shellharbour Surf Life Saving Club where he gained his bronze medallion and for about ten years served in the radio room for Kiama Surf Club for about ten years and had 100% attendance record.

He was a handy cricketer with Shellharbour a hard hitting opening batsman who would have been in his element if 20-20 cricket had been around at the time. He captained Shellharbour second grade team in the only tied final in the history of south coast cricket in 1953-4 when they were joint premiers with Lake Illawarra club after two innings each and was a handy golfer and tennis player and made a worthy contribution not only to rugby league but to sport.

At his funeral in Kiama a guard of honour was formed by referees and rugby league officials past and present and his whistle was blown for the final time.

John O’Dwyer OAM.

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