Queensland Rugby Referee Association (QRRA) stalwart Thomas Ryan was last week recognised for his services to both Rugby Union and medical research, receiving an Order of Australia Medal on Australia Day.
Ryan’s longstanding involvement with Rugby began in 1992, serving as Secretary for Wests Junior Rugby Club in Brisbane. He took on the role of President at the club from 1995 to 1996 and then transitioned to the senior club, where he operated as both Secretary (1997-1998) and President (1998-2001).
Whilst working behind the scenes at Wests, Ryan also joined the QRRA in 1994. He acquired his referee coaching accreditation and began working predominantly with the development of junior referees. He continued to referee at junior and senior levels until 2000, and was awarded the Trevor Henry Award for long-term service to Brisbane Junior Rugby Union (BJRU) and Schools Rugby.
During his involvement with the QRRA, Ryan has also been awarded the Paddy O’Brien Award for exceptional service to the association, and the Don Duffel/Phil Jones Award for outstanding service to the development of referees through referee coaching and assessment.
2013 saw Ryan referee his last match, taking up the whistle for a total of 522 matches, whilst he continued to be active in referee coaching through to 2015.
Ryan was also appointed Rugby Australia’s Referee liaison officer in 2007 and continued to serve in that role until 2017. Within this role Ryan was highly regarded by all international and interstate referees who travelled to Brisbane.
Ryan’s considerable contribution to the game over 22 years has seen him earn respect from his peers and he was bestowed an honorary lifetime membership to the QRRA in 2016.
English and Rugby World Cup referee Wayne Barnes, who met Ryan many a time whilst visiting Australia said: “Rugby has taken me around the world, it has introduced me to some special places and some special people, but few are as special as Tom.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to class him and his family – Julie, Nicholas and Oliver – as dear friends since we first met back in 2010.
“I read that his role as the Rugby AU referee liaison meant that ‘he was highly regarded by all international and interstate referees’ – an understatement to say the least. He is loved, admired and respected by all who have had the pleasure to meet him in this role.
“I understand that the Australian Honours system provides the people of Australia the opportunity to say thank you to those who have made Australia a better place. It also gives me the opportunity to say thank you.
“Tom – you are a wonderful friend and thank you for making me feel part of your wonderful family, and thank you for always making my family and I feel welcome when we touched down in Queensland.”
Not only has Ryan provided many years of service to the game of Rugby, but he has also been heavily involved in medical research.
Ryan has been a member of the Board of the Gallipoli Medical Research Foundation (GMRF) since it’s inception in March 2005. He also served as Chairman from November 2011 to November 2016.
The vision of GMRF is to enhance the health of the Australian community through the highest quality medical research.
During Ryan’s tenure as Chairman, he was responsible for the oversight of the significant expansion of the research institute to include research into diseases of the liver and eye, respiratory disease, veteran mental health and award winning clinical trial units.
Ryan has also overseen the substantial expansion of research facilities, delivering world class laboratories and purpose-built clinical research facilities to Greenslopes Private Hospital in 2012. He has also been active in founding the annual GMRF Innovation Grants, which encourage practical research projects undertaken by the nursing and allied health professions at the hospital.
Simon Moore, Vice-President of QRRA, said: “Tom has over many years shown a commitment to Rugby – firstly with Wests and then more recently with QRRA.
“His commitment has been nothing but service to the game, from grassroots through to the very top. The friendships and respect of those in Rugby for Tom is testament to his service to the game.”
Queensland Rugby Union, on behalf of the wider Queensland Rugby community, would like to commend Tom for his endless service to the game and congratulate him on his Order of Australia honour.