Two of rugby’s leading female ambassadors have been honoured at the annual Ulster Society of Rugby Football Referees (USRFR) dinner.
The event, hosted by President Adrian Millar, took place on Saturday 27th April in the beautiful surroundings of the Royal Court Hotel in Portrush.
In front of an audience which included IRFU President Ian McIlrath and representatives from the Ulster Branch and all four provinces of Ireland, Grainne Crabtree was named Society Member of the year whilst Glenda Mellon received the President’s Award. Both women, who were also comperes at the dinner, received a rousing reception as they accepted their accolades,
Speaking afterwards, Adrian said they were hugely deserving winners: “As President of the USRFR I was delighted to have this opportunity to recognise Grainne and Glenda for everything they do to support and promote the game of rugby. Grainne is a driving force of positivity who has proven her officiating capabilities time and time again. Her communication andconduct is an example to all referees and sportspeople and this reward is a clear reflection of the high esteem in which she is held. For my President’s Award there was only ever one person in my mind deserving of the title. Glenda is someone who is simply always there when help or guidance is needed. Her reliability and loyalty have proved invaluable to me throughout my term and together both women represent the very best of the game. The work they have done this year has been incredible. Our Society and all rugby players throughout Ireland are better off for having people like Grainne and Glenda representing the sport.”
The third major award of the night went to Peter Martin, Referee of the Year. His success capped a memorable month which also saw him travel to Russia to oversee the final of the U18 Rugby Europe Competition between Georgia and Spain.
As a former player who remains an active referee, Adrian is acutely aware of the hugely important role they play as well as the demands placed on the game’s resources.
“The USRFR provides referees for around 100 games every weekend at the height of the season and recruitment and retention is a massive piece of work for us. We owe it to all those who want to play rugby, no matter who they are or at what level, that this can be accommodated and a suitably qualified referee is available to ensure the game can go ahead,” he said.
“Taking on the role of referee is hugely rewarding and as the game becomes faster and more technical we are relying on more people coming forward to take on the position.”
Reflecting on his term as President of the USRFR, Adrian said it’s been one of most enjoyable years of his rugby career.
“I gave it my all throughout and it has been fantastic. Attending all the Ulster home games and being able to meet people like Nigel Owens who represent the pinnacle of rugby refereeing has been such an honour. I learned so much about the huge volume of back room work which goes on and just how important this is to the sport. I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every person I’ve met throughout the year, and offer a very special word of recognition to all USRFR members for their unrelenting energy, enthusiasm and dedication.”