Australia’s most celebrated referee Stu Dickinson has announced his retirement, effectively immediately, at the age of 43.
Dickinson was in charge of an Australian record 47 Test matches after controlling his first international in 1997 when Tahiti played Papua New Guinea in a Rugby World Cup qualifier.
He went on to referee at the highest level of the game for 15 seasons, officiating at three Rugby World Cup tournaments – the 1999 event in Wales, 2003 in Australia and 2007 in France.
He also had the honour of winning the inaugural Referee of the Year Award at the annual John Eales Medal evening in 2009 and again in 2010, as well as the Super Rugby Australian Referee of the Year award on a record seven occasions.
Dickinson started refereeing at the age of 12, while he was also playing fly-half and fullback for Epping Boys High School.
He has been employed as a full time referee with Australian Rugby Union since 1997 and also controlled 98 Super Rugby matches – an Australian and tournament record.
Australian Rugby Union Managing Director and CEO, John O’Neill AO, paid tribute to Dickinson today.
“Throughout his career at the international level, Stu was among the best referees in the world,” said Mr O’Neill.
“His ability to control a match with empathy for not only the laws of the game but the spirit of the game was a feature of his time in the middle.
“The achievements he has collected over a long period of time, after refereeing his first Test at the age of just 29, are testament to his ability and his commitment to refereeing.”
Australian Rugby Union’s National Referee Coach, Andrew Cole, said Dickinson had proved himself as one of the world’s best over many seasons.
“You’ve only got to read Stuart’s CV to see what a massive part of the refereeing landscape he has been for many years,” Cole said.
“Not only has he enjoyed longevity in his career but he has also performed at a consistently high standard over that time, which has presented him with a shelf full of referee awards and for me that is the biggest tribute he can be paid.
“His career has had many more highs than lows, but the way he has bounced back from the lows shows not only his determination but also his strength of character and that he is a true role model for referees young and old.
“Stuart will be sorely missed, his contribution to Rugby has been immense and it’s great that he can leave on his own terms.”
Dickinson said he had thoroughly enjoyed his career in refereeing and the journey it had taken him on.
“It’s not often people get to turn their hobby into a career and for that I am eternally grateful,” Dickinson said.
“To have been able to travel the world and take the field with some of the best players the game has ever seen has been a huge honour.
“I want to thank my wife Fiona and our three children Michael, Emily and Isabella who have been incredibly supportive, understanding and patient over the course of my career and I look forward to spending more time with my family in the months and years ahead.
“I also want to thank the ARU and my Australian and international colleagues, the camaraderie and friendships I have made over my time in the game will be truly cherished.
“My decision to hang up the whistle I believe is the right one, as I now have a good opportunity to move into the commercial world and leave the game feeling as though I’ve achieved all I set out to achieve.”
Dickinson has completed a Masters Degree in International Sports Management through Southern Cross University.