29 June 2021

Congratulations to the following who received Distinguished Service Awards at the recent 2021 NZRL AGM

George Tuata Tahapehi

George Tuata Tahapehi has been involved in the game since 1978, coaching the Putaruru Dragons, Ngongotaha, Pacific Sharks and the Tokoroa Devils. Tahapehi also coached Tokoroa High School and won the final of the Telecom Cup. George, a founding Life Member of Midland Masters Rugby League Tokoroa, is still playing at 73 and received Gold Shorts Kiwi Player in Australia in 2016.

Tahapehi enjoyed a spell as Midland Rugby League President from 1980-90 and has been a vital figure in the club. He served as a Junior Schoolboy Co-ordinator, youth representative coach and administrator for most of the Senior Grades. He coached the u15s, became a premier referee and an Honorary Member of Midlands Rugby League Club. George Tahapehi has had an enormous influence on the district and fabric of the club.

On a national level, the Midlands man has been involved in the NZRL Schoolboys Council, the New Zealand Schools u15 council, Kiwis Schoolboys coach in 1991 and North Island Rugby League coach in 1980.

George has served the game he loves for 43 years and did the mileage that has allowed the rugby league community in Tokoroa to survive. Tahapehi continues to serve the community holding barbecues for the annual Children’s Day in Tokoroa and also collecting boots that he can provide tamariki and rangatahi to which they often wouldn’t have been able to afford.

Alana Lockhorst

Alana Lockhorst has been a significant member of the Southland rugby league community. She has been a key person for Cooks Rugby League Club in Invercargill for the past ten years and has divided her time into making sure the club is well resourced, active in recruiting and retaining players and undertakes a majority of key roles in organising the club.

Alana has been the heart of Southland Rugby League for the past ten years. She has held various roles in the district, including secretary, treasurer, and at times has led the organisation and managed the Premier representative team, the Southland Rams.

She has almost single-handedly promoted and created opportunities for rangatahi in the game. She runs competitions and organises funding and resourcing for 14s, 15s, 17s, and girls representative teams.

She currently organises and manages the senior competition and is always involved in any events and activities hosted by Southland Rugby League.

She works closely with the managers of club and representative teams to upskill them whilst also managing age-grade teams where required.

Without her contribution operationally, Southland Rugby League would not have provided the level of rugby league that they do to their community.

Alana managed the NZ Secondary Schools Team in 2017 and the NZ Residents Team in 2017 and 2019.

William “Bill” Mann

An NZRL historian and long-serving member of the Wellington Rugby League Referees Association, William “Bill” Mann has been serving the rugby league community since 1943. Mann began coaching in 1957 before moving to Porirua and co-founding the Western Suburbs RLC, which later changed their name to Porirua City.

He joined the WRL Referees Association in 1963, working his way up to a senior referee and then treasurer of the association between 1969 and 1972, rules critic from 1975-80 and referee’s delegate on the WRL Board of Control and Chairman in 1980-81. Mann retired from his position in 1981 and was made a Life Member of the WRLRA in 1985.

Bill Mann was a pioneer in the rugby league and referee’s space in Wellington and created a better game in the region. His efforts will not go unnoticed and are still felt to this day.

Des Michael O’Sullivan

Desmond O’Sullivan is also a member of the Wellington Rugby League Referees Association, beginning his relationship with the game more than 50 years ago as a coach of junior side Marist-St Joseph’s school in Auckland – picking up the whistle in 1967 at age 17.

Between 1967 and 1993, O’Sullivan officiated 95 representative games, had 16 international appointments and refereed two Wellington club grand finals in 1986 and 1988. He officiated the Tusk Cup, Rugby League Cup, National Tournament and other representative honours also.

In 1972, Des moved to Wellington and was voted into the association in September of that year; after fixtures as a touch judge, O’Sullivan had his first provincial refereeing appointment on September 11th, 1976. In 1978, Des was made an Assistant Rules Critic of the WRLRA before becoming Deputy Chairman in 1981. The following year O’Sullivan was elected Chairman, of which he served until 1990.

During this period, Desmond was a part of the NZRL Test Panel for two years and ran numerous lines and the reserve referee. A year before he stood down from refereeing in 1993, Des was made a Life Member of the Wellington Referees Association. He later got involved in writing and running the first level three referee’s course at Hopuhopu in 1997 and even received a Queen’s Service Medal for his contribution to rugby league, rotary and to the New Zealand Police.

His last honour came in 2011 when he was made a life member of the Wellington Rugby League and has been a patron of the WRLRA since 2010.

Barrie Robert James Law

Barrie first got involved in Rugby League in 1985. He became a member of the Korodale Rugby League Club, becoming the assistant manager in 1986, for the Trentham Camp Rugby League Club, which at the time was affiliated to the Korodale Rugby League as the Trentham Army Team or Korodale Army. Barrie held the position of manager in 1987.

Upon posting to Burnham, Barrie relinquished his roles and simply supported the Burnham camp team in the Canterbury competition.

When Barrie returned to Trentham, on Army posting, he again took over as the Trentham Team manager and club chairman (1993 – 1996).  The club was known as the Upper Hutt Army or occasionally as Trentham Tigers and was affiliated to the Upper Hutt Rugby League Club, fielding the club’s senior second’s team.  The club went from strength to strength over this period where the Trentham Camp team under the Upper Hutt Tigers colours won 2 grand finals, 1994 and 1996 and were semi-finalists in 1995.

For a short period, Barrie was also Vice Chairman of Upper Hutt (six months) just before posting to Waiouru in November 1996.

On posting to Waiouru, Barrie took up the reigns of the Waiouru “Bobcats” Rugby League Club, where he again was the manager and club chairman.  During his tenure, and with assistance from rugby league enthusiasts in the Waimarino district established a small junior rugby league group where games were played on a turn-up and play basis.   Many weekends were spent travelling with the premiers on Saturday and with the juniors on a Sunday. During this period, the Waiouru Bobcats went through many structures and eventually settled on a Premier Reserve Team where they won 2 grand finals in the Manawatu competition. 

Barrie relinquished these roles when he posted to Linton in 2002.  Barrie supported the Linton Army Rugby league club, Linton “Cobra’s”, from 2002 and remains an avid supporter. During his time with the club, he held the role of Chairman over the period 2013 To 2019.

Under Barrie’s guidance and with assistance from other military rugby league enthusiasts incorporated the women’s game into the fold at Linton with a strong contingent of army and community members joining the team to participate in the Wellington Women’s Rugby league Competition. The club also grew to include junior playing teams during his time as Chairperson.

Law held the position of Chairman NZ Defence Forces Rugby League and, when not hosting, has been an executive committee member. Barrie has been referred to within Army and NZ Defence Force as Mr Rugby League.

Barrie was instrumental in producing the first strategic plan for NZ Defence Forces Rugby League, which approved two matches a year, something no other sports code in Defence had at the time. He was also instrumental in having the NZ Defence Forces Rugby League approved by NZRL as an official NZ representative side. 

Barrie was awarded the NZ Army Colour for Sport in November 2004.

Congratulations to all of the above who received Distinguished Service Awards at the recent 2021 NZRL AGM. We thank you for your years of service and dedication to the great game of rugby league.


NZRL wish to congratulate the following 2020 Distinguished Service Awards Recipients:

  • John Peter Brimble
  • John Gary Clarke
  • Bill Liddell
  • Stanley Nicholas
  • Gary Whittle

John Peter Brimble

John has had a lifelong interest in rugby league. His involvement with NZU&TS’s saw him become a trusted and extremely knowledgeable advisor on all matters from governance and management to sponsorship, funding applications and fundraising. As an organisation that was constantly in a state of flux, he was a steadying influence and one who drove the profile of the organisation to the point where it became more visible and effective.

John was a guiding force through his interest in rugby league of the Otago Rugby League and served either officially or ex-officio over a number of years using his skills and knowledge of sport through his role as CEO of Sport Otago to provide a positive influence.

With the inception of the Southern Zone he was instrumental in the rebirth of Otago Rugby League, heading the interim Board formed in 2010 to get the game back up and running. He served as Chair of the Otago Rugby League Judicial Committee and adjudicated over a number of hearings where his common-sense approach was very conducive to good outcomes for the game and its participants.

Having been appointed to the inaugural Southern Zone Board in 2010, he served on the Board for nine years, the last six as Chair. His contribution to building what has become the leading Zone in NZ has been immense. With careful stewardship that recognises good governance, he has supported the staff and volunteers in the game in the Southern Zone through the ups and downs of sport. He became highly regarded at NZRL for his studied approach and for his solution-based approach to issues and challenges.

John Gary Clarke

Gary Clarke has been involved in rugby league for more than 70 years, serving the game at Club, District, Zone and National levels as a player, coach, administrator and sponsor.

Gary began playing rugby league as a five-year-old and went on to a distinguished playing career as a courageous defender, tactically astute halfback, and tenacious battler against the odds before taking up Coaching.

Gary has operated Gary Clarke Plastics for 36 years and has been a generous sponsor at club and provincial levels for decades.

The plastics factory incorporates a magnificent Rugby League Museum. He has collected and displayed hundreds of pieces of memorabilia. When his original factory was destroyed by the earthquake, he included the Museum in his move to new premises

He hosts annual South Island ex-Kiwis functions and other Rugby League events at the Museum. He keeps a caring outlook on ageing members of the South Island ex-Kiwis and their well-being.

Gary was awarded the Queens’ Service Medal for services to sport and philanthropy in 2015.

Bill Liddell

Looking at service to the game of Rugby League in the Bay of Plenty, Bill Liddell is one of only two in the District to have given so much of his life to the sport.

His Match Manager / Draw creator / Competition Manager roles were juggled with the Chairman responsibilities for the District and family Business duties. Humble unassuming and will never ask for recognition.  The length of service Bill has amassed within the game spans over 20 years.

Stanley Nicholas

Stanley (Bunny) is well known and respected throughout all regions with many turning to him for advice and guidance. He has a fair and unbiased approach to ensuring the only thing that wins is the game of rugby league.

While Bunny and his whanau have put countless hours into growing the game, this did take a toll. He has stepped back to allow others to take the reins and ease up his pressures. However, he is always in the background providing support and encouragement everywhere he can.

Bunny spends countless hours visiting schools, running lunchtime training and maintaining contacts to help grow interest in the sport amongst the youth in Tauranga. He continues to dedicate his time to running competitions, maintaining clubs, building numbers, introducing new initiatives and supporting the Zone In any way that he can.

Gary Whittle

Gary has dedicated a large portion of his life to serving the game of rugby league and the communities within the code.

He has served as a referee, Administrator, Ground Announcer, Time Keeper, Match Manager, Committee member, Vice-Chairperson and Chairperson.

He has refereed in Northland, Auckland and Waikato regions and was an executive member of the Auckland Rugby League Referees Association from 1977 until 1981 and in 1982 was elected Vice President. In 1996 Gary was elected a Life Member of the Association.

Gary was also a member of the Centenary Committee that organised the Association’s 100-year celebrations in 2010 and still attends meetings of the Association five or six times a year.

From 1985 until 1992 Gary was Chairman of the Auckland Police Rugby League Club.