Full Time Called on a Remarkable Career
In the final play of the Round 26 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and Gold Coast Titans, Michael Gordon comfortably landed a penalty goal and sealed the victory for the home team. As the ball passed through the uprights, the flags went up and the full time siren rang out around Allianz Stadium. Rickey McFarlane and Russell Turner then lowered their flags and turned to one another to embrace and celebrate the end of an incredible career, at the very same ground where it had all begun some 16 years prior. This would be the 429th time Russell Turner would hear the full time siren as a match official in the National Rugby League. It would also be the last time.
Russell joined the Penrith District Rugby League Referees' Association in 1988 and so commenced the journey that would ultimately see him become the most capped on field match official in a single discipline in first grade rugby league history. Russell's ability as a referee saw him officiate in the NSWRL Junior Representative Competitions and in 1995 he was the referee for the A Grade Division Two Grand Final in Penrith. But it was his talent as a specialist touch judge that was evident even in the early days and saw him appointed to that role in three A Grade Division One Grand Finals. He was graded to the New South Wales Rugby League Referees' Association in 1998 as member number 859.
In Round 2 of the 2001 season, St George-Illawarra played the Wests Tigers at the venue then known as the Sydney Football Stadium. This was a special game for Russell, as it marked his debut in the NRL. His NRL number is 64. Over 400 games at the top level would follow along with 3 NRL Grand Finals, 13 State of Origin Games, 7 Test Matches, 3 Internationals, 3 City v Country Origins, 1 World Club Challenge and 1 World Cup.
Russell was made a Life Member of the Penrith Referees' Association in 2005, a fitting reward for decades of service to not only the Penrith District, but the entire rugby league community. Even at the height of his impressive career, Russell could regularly be found at Association training or meetings, mentoring and developing the next batch of first grade officials.
At the conclusion of the 2017 season Russell announced his retirement from officiating signalling the end of a remarkable career at the top level of our game. His vast achievements are a testament to his commitment and character over such a long period, not only as an on-field official, but as a mentor and friend to so many. Whatever the next chapter may hold, it is safe to say that the game of rugby league and the standing of officials within the game are far better for Russell's involvement.
On behalf of the entire Penrith District Rugby League Referees' Association, we congratulate Russell Turner on a wonderful career and wish him every success in his future endeavours.
Year joined PDRLRA: 1988
Year Graded to NSWRLRA: 1998
NSWRLRA Grade No: 859
NRL Debut: Round 2, 2001 - St George-Illawarra Dragons v Wests Tigers, Sydney Football Stadium
Total NRL Games: 429
NRL No: 64
Career Highlights: NRL Grand Final TJ (2007, 12, 13), State of Origin TJ (13 games 2006-14), 7 Test Matches, 3 Internationals, 3 City v Country Origin Matches, 1 World Club Challenge (2014), 1 World Cup (2008).