Walsh hangs up his whistle
Monday 27th April 2009
New Zealand’s longest serving professional referee Steve Walsh has retired from his job with the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) following an enquiry into a personal employment issue.
Walsh was reportedly involved in an incident involving alcohol at a SANZAR conference in Sydney in December.
He has been unwilling to comment on the incident, which the Herald on Sunday reported involved Walsh appearing drunk at a morning session at the conference and being asked to leave.
An NZRU statement in January said he wouldn’t be considered by the NZRU for the opening month of Super 14 matches. Since then, Walsh’s name has been missing from the appointment list.
Walsh, who refereed his first Test match in June 1998, is New Zealand’s most experienced international referee. He has extensive experience at domestic, Super 14 and international level, having refereed in both Six Nations and Tri-Nations matches.
He was appointed to the last two Rugby World Cup tournaments.
Recent media reports have indicated Walsh may consider aligning himself with another overseas union although his comments in an NZRU statement on Monday suggest otherwise.
“I have enjoyed my time in refereeing immensely; however there is a significant commitment involving a lot of travel and time away from home which I found increasingly difficult dealing with,” he said in a statement.
“I may at some stage in the future want to return to refereeing at the top level and if I choose to do that I know what is required – but right now I have a different focus.”
NZRU General Manager Professional Rugby Neil Sorensen on Monday paid tribute to Walsh for his decision to step down from refereeing and for his record.
“Steve has been an outstanding referee and has officiated some of the biggest matches in world rugby, demonstrating his talent and representing New Zealand on the international stage. At his best, he was a truly world-class referee.”
Walsh made his national referee squad debut in 1996 and in total refereed 212 first class games, including 35 Tests.