24 June 2024

The 2024 New Zealand Sport & Recreation Awards took place last night, where Kevin Bailey was awarded the highly prestigious Sir Eion and Jan, Lady Edgar Lifetime Achievement Award for his lifetime of service to the game of rugby league.

Kevin Bailey has been a dedicated player, referee, administrator, and influential figure in rugby league for over 72 years.

His journey began at the age of six in Auckland with the Marist Saints before later joining Mt. Albert at 15, excelling as an open-side prop. His passion for rugby league led him to the Glenora Bears as well as the New Lynn Stags where he not only played but also made significant contributions as a Committee Member, leaving a lasting impact on the club.

Upon retiring from playing, Kevin’s desire to stay in the game saw him pick up a whistle and commence his officiating career and he could be found every Saturday refereeing matches around Auckland. Kevin’s dedication to Auckland Rugby League and the Auckland Rugby League Referees Association has been invaluable, with his invaluable contributions earning him Life Membership with both organisations.

Kevin’s tenure as a referee saw him excel and surpass domestic rugby league as he earned international appointments, officiating international games and representing the sport on a global stage.

In 1994, Kevin became one of the first New Zealand Rugby League employees as the National Referees Manager which saw him elevate officiating standards. His mentorship has been crucial in developing, growing, and retaining referees over many years.

As his career progressed Kevin was instrumental in the creation and administration of numerous competitions including the Bartercard Cup, the Pacific Cup, and the NZ Secondary Schools Rugby League Competition.

Kevin excelled at crafting comprehensive rules and regulations for competitions and tournaments. He was key in establishing a high standard that ensured fairness, consistency, and a high level of competitive play. His meticulous attention to detail and deep understanding of the game helped create frameworks that enhance the professionalism of rugby league events.

Arguably, Kevin’s biggest contribution to the NZRL organisation was through his extensive work in policy development, constitutional amendments, and the creation of by-laws. His efforts raised the game’s standards by ensuring that all operational and competitive aspects were governed by clear, fair, and consistent regulations. Kevin’s expertise in these areas provided a solid foundation for the sport by promoting integrity, safety, and bettering the overall structure and quality of rugby league.

Over the years Kevin served on the ARL Appeals Panel, playing a key role in justly resolving disputes within the league. As the ARL Judicial Chair, Kevin upheld the highest standards of integrity, overseeing disciplinary matters with impartiality.

Kevin is a current member of the NZRL Museum Committee and has played a crucial role in safeguarding our rich history, ensuring that our heritage remains preserved for generations to come.

New Zealand Rugby League recognised Kevin’s outstanding contributions by awarding him the Distinguished Service Award in 2014, and recently awarded him the honour of Life Membership at the 2024 Annual General Meeting.

New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters says, “Congratulations to Kevin on earning this distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award. This is testament to all his incredible work and dedication to the game of rugby league for more than 70 years.

“Kevin’s unwavering commitment and positive impact on rugby league has left the game in a better place. Congratulations again Kevin, there is no one in our game more deserving of this award.”