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Final whistle blows for referee stalwart

Wai-Bush referee icon Baden Whale died on Thursday. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Humble man left a great sport legacy

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The Wairarapa-Bush rugby community is mourning the sudden death of refereeing icon Baden Whale, at the age of 83, on Thursday night.

Whale was a life member of both the rugby union and referees association and held various other roles in the rugby community, however, he will always be best known for his referee achievements.

Whale refereed more than 230 premier games and hundreds of other games in his 50 years as a referee, and retired from active refereeing in 2012, at the age of 75.

However, his greatest achievement is not widely known – when he had the whistle for the British Lions match against Nelson Bays in 1966.

Such was his love of the game and the people, in 2020 when covid-19 struck, Whale and his friend Keith Hannam would drive around the different games which were played behind closed gates, and present themselves as referee assessors to the event managers, so they could get in.

Chairman of the Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Referees Association Graeme Reisima said the entire refereeing community of Wairarapa-Bush Rugby was reeling from the news of Whales’ sudden passing.

“Baden was an icon in our small union and was a friend and mentor to everyone,” he said.

“A referee with unbelievable humility and wise counsel on all aspects of rugby, he was still involved as late as the 2020 season watching and coaching current referees.”

“His presence on all our local grounds was a common sight, and his company was sought by many after the game when he enjoyed the social aspects of our great sport.”

Reisima said Whale’s achievements in the sport and refereeing were too great to list and in his humble way he wouldn’t want them listed.

“Baden’s loyalty and dedication to our sport will be almost impossible to match, and it was best shown by how he had held every role in the association over his 50-plus years of involvement, some more than once.

“His love for the game and quiet, unassuming manner will be sorely missed, and in the refereeing world, a mighty totara has fallen.”

Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union chief executive Tony Hargood said, “Baden was a true gentleman of our game and we can only sit back admire his incredible generosity, calmness, wisdom, and fairness that he bought to all who he came in contact with or worked alongside”.

“His humbleness as a person will be the enduring legacy he will leave with us all.”

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