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First lady of refereeing awarded OAM

Almost five decades of service to the NSW rugby community has today seen Mrs Robin Timmins recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Mrs Timmins was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, having recently celebrated 45 years of service to the NSW Rugby Union.   She is already Australia’s first female referee and the first female in the NSW Rugby Union’s 139-year history to receive anHonorary Life Membership.

“I heard that I had been nominated but when the confirmation came through last week, I couldn’t really believe it,” said Mrs Timmins.

“When you’ve been doing what you’ve been doing for so long, you don’t expect to be picked out like this.  I’m just doing my job really.”

In her role as Referees Assistant, Mrs Timmins co-ordinates the appointments of officials for every Premiership, Colts, Suburban, Women’s and First XV Schools game across Sydney, every weekend, from March to October.

A long-time Eastwood rugby supporter, Mrs Timmins first started in 1968 with the Sydney Rugby Union and she went on to join Eastwood District Referees Association two years later.

It was during her time as an administrator for the SRU that she was persuaded to take up the whistle herself.  “A colleague of mine, Ian Eldred (who unfortunately is no longer with us) who was the President of Eastwood Referees Association back then, persuaded me to do a course.  I passed that and the field test and that’s how that started.  I became the first lady to pass a refereeing exam not long after I started, ‘around 1970!’ I refereed mini rugby and the Under 10s – I wasn’t that quick you see.”

In April this year, her service to the game was honoured when she received Honorary Life Membership of the NSW Rugby Union, thus becoming the first woman in the Union’s 139 year history to do so. A life member of the Eastwood District Rugby Referees Association (and, following a restructure in 2009, the Sydney West Rugby Referees Association) she also served as their Honorary Secretary for around 15 years.  In 2000 she was awarded an Australian Sports Medal in recognition of her efforts in making Australia a nation of sporting excellence. In 2002, she was awarded a Life Membership of the NSW Rugby Union Referees Association for her outstanding contribution to the refereeing fraternity.

“When I think back to 1968 when I started working for the Sydney Rugby Union, there were just four people employed in the office, running the whole of Australian Rugby.

“Things have changed a bit since then! In the days before computers and emails, all the referee appointments used to get done manually.  I had to use an old-fashioned type writer and the Roneo machine, then mail the appointments every Tuesday.  These days it’s all done electronically, online and via emails.”

Despite almost half a century of service, Mrs Timmins says she still enjoys what she does and has no plans to retire. “The only stressful part is the shortage of referees.  It can make things difficult at times, when I’m having to ask referees to do two or three games in a weekend, just to get the matches covered. Maybe I can encourage a few more to get involved!”

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