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VALE ANDREW COLE: Special Family Tribute In His Memory At Wallabies' Test

Sat, 09/07/2022, 2:45 am
Jim Tucker
by Jim Tucker
Andrew Cole’s wife Anne-Maree, with ‘Coley’ jersey, surrounded by family on the way to honour him at the Wallabies’ Test. Photo supplied
Andrew Cole’s wife Anne-Maree, with ‘Coley’ jersey, surrounded by family on the way to honour him at the Wallabies’ Test. Photo supplied

The family of former Test referee Andrew Cole have honoured the memory of a loving husband, father and grandfather with a moving tribute at tonight’s Wallabies’ Test. 

All are in mourning with the Australian Rugby community after Cole lost his battle with cancer, suddenly, at 61 on the morning of the Test.

He had planned to be in the crowd for the Australia-England Test knowing it would probably be his last. He had bought eight Wallabies jerseys for family and gone to the extra effort of having the date “July 9, 2022” embroidered on each.

“We had a blessed life together,” wife Anne-Maree said.

“He didn’t tell me about the embroidery. There are eight of us at the Test and one seat empty for Andrew.

“He was pretty darn special in every way.”

Cole has been remembered as the calm, respected figure with the whistle in 31 Tests and 44 Super Rugby matches. After he called time on his own days in the middle, he nurtured the next wave as a coach of referees like current international ref Nick Berry.

Family, friends and the refereeing fraternity worldwide are grieving.

“As a bloke, he was second to none. ‘Coley’ had a caring nature, was a great team man who could get on with anyone and a devoted family man,” said Scott Young, a close friend and former Test referee.

“As a referee, I heard coaches and players say ‘it’s good to have Coley today’.

“He was a players’ ref. He earned their respect and he respected them.”

Cole officiated in many free-flowing games, none more so than the Tri-Nations Test between the All Blacks and Springboks at Johannesburg’s Ellis Park in 2000.

It was a 10-try spectacle won 46-40 by the Springboks that owed not a little to his feel for the game and knowing when to put the whistle away.

He clocked up all his on-field kilometres in that Test having been up all night with a stomach bug.

Cole had a wry sense of humour. He had high regard for former Wallabies skipper George Gregan but once likened it to “refereeing beside a train station” when the chatty Gregan was in his ear when playing for the Brumbies.

Cole found his love for rugby at his high school, Marist College Ashgrove. He started refereeing in 1988 and officiated his first Test when Samoa played Tonga nine years later.

He handled five Six Nations Tests and enjoyed that rare thing in rugby by finishing a near 20-year career on his own terms.

The Brisbane dentist refereed the second Test between the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions in Wellington in 2005. He had the best view of Dan Carter’s sublime two-try game. 

He officiated further Tests in Cape Town, Tokyo and Dublin later that year and called time on one of the finest of refereeing careers.

He would eventually become the second-ever Australian to be appointed to World Rugby's Match Official Selection Committee in 2013, implementing policies designed to protect the welfare of referees.

In 2021, he was acknowledged for his services to the sport with the World Rugby Referee Award.

“This award honours your distinguished long-term service to the game and refereeing. It recognises your contribution to both the professional and amateur forms of the game over four decades as a referee, referee coach, World Rugby selector and mentor to many referees,” World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont wrote in a letter to Cole.

Rugby Australian Chief Executive Andy Marinos expressed the feelings of the Australian rugby community in a statement.

“Andrew Cole was a tremendous servant to Rugby, and made an outstanding contribution to the sport,"

“The entire Rugby community is indebted to Andrew for the many years he spent officiating at the highest level - as well as passing on his unrivalled expertise to younger generations of officials.

“On behalf of Rugby Australia, we are mourning the loss of Andrew, and we send our collective love and strength to his family and loved ones.”

Cole is survived by wife Anne-Maree, children Michael, David and Megan and two grandchildren.

Andrew's funeral will be held on Wednesday 20 July at Marist College Ashgrove Chapel, 142 Frasers Rd, Ashgrove, commencing at 10:00pm. Followed by a wake at Brothers Rugby Club at 1:00pm.

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