Bill Harrigan

Legendary NRL referee.


Love him or hate him, Bill Harrigan was the best rugby league referee in the world. And if you don’t believe that, just ask him… he’ll tell you.

Current work

Today Bill is one of the most prominent and successful speakers and MCs on the circuit. Bill Harrigan will keep you totally entertained with his amazing and spellbinding police and refereeing stories from all over the world, as well as with his motivational and leadership qualities. Bill guarantees you a damn good laugh with his larrikin wit.

Previous experience

Hailing from Sydney’s western suburbs, Bill’s positive attitude and motivation qualities have steered him to the top. As a young kid, his ambition was to pursue a career as a professional, important, respected man with letters after his name, so Bill became a member of the Police Special Weapons and Operations Unit (SWOS), and then a top international referee, thus realising his ambitions as a professional, important, respected man, and according to some fans, with “letters after his name”.

But love him or hate him, Bill Harrigan has refereed 393 games in 17 years as a first grade referee; even the most hardened rugby league fanatic would have to give whistleblower Bill Harrigan his due recognition.

As a member of the NSW Police Force, Harrigan was offered a challenging role with the Tactical Response Group (TRG). He then worked for the Special Weapons and Operations Section/Witness Protection Unit and finally as a police negotiator. It was here that he learned important lessons in arbitration and conflict resolution, attributes that have proved to be vital skills in life and on the rugby league field.

With the background and training with the TRG, Bill is still dedicated to a very strict training routine. Regular runs through the National Park at Sutherland and grueling beach side and gym workouts still has Bill just as fit as he was when refereeing. Who could forget watching Harrigan arrive at the in-goal area with runaway try scorers, whistle in mouth, waiting for the ball to be put down?

Becoming a referee all came by default when his Fairvale High School football coach volunteered him for the NSW Rugby League Referees course, as no one from the school wanted to volunteer. After gaining his official referees ticket he got his chance to mediate in a local pub competition. He earned the attention of refereeing officials and was asked to join the Parramatta District Referees Association and his career blossomed from there. He was officially graded in 1983 and on the 19th May 1986 Bill made his first grade debut. Bill retired after the 2003 Grand Final completing a legendary record breaking career. 393 first grade games, 10 grand finals in 1989, ’90, ’91, ’97, ’98, ’99, 2000, ’01, ’02 and ’03; 21 State of Origins; two Super League Tri Series; 22 Test matches including the blockbuster deciding test in 1994 between Great Britian and Australia. His international credits include going to England and refereeing the English Super League in 1996 finishing with the European Cup Final and the 2005, 06 and 07 Papua New Guinea grand finals.

In 2011 Bill was appointed to the head coach role of the NRL referees. His experience and expertise in refereeing made it a logical choice.