Obituary: Small in stature but a giant of the game in the Hunter region

RUGBY MAN: Tom Maddern was the founding chairman of the Hawthorne Club and was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2007 for his services to rugby union. Picture: Simone De Peak
RUGBY MAN: Tom Maddern was the founding chairman of the Hawthorne Club and was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in 2007 for his services to rugby union. Picture: Simone De Peak

ONLY small in stature, Tom Maddern was a giant of the game of rugby union in the Hunter region.

Maddern was a player, referee, served on the Australian Rugby Union Council and NSW Rugby Union and NSW Country executives, he was was a referee’s coach and assessor, administrator, fundraiser and powerbroker.

Most of all he was a rugby man.

Maddern died on Saturday after a second battle with illness. He was aged 75.

A halfback for Wanderers in the 60s, Maddern turned to refereeing due to injury and controlled more the 550 games in a 33-year career.

In recent years, most of Maddern’s energy had been devoted to the Hawthorne Club and the redevelopment of No.2 Sportsground.

Maddern was the founding chairman on the Hawthorne Club, a philanthropic group which has raised more than $750,000 for local rugby since 1997, and has also served as treasurer and president.

His fine sessions and “that’s 30 bucks thank you very much” sign off have become almost legendary.

As is the list of Australian Rugby Union’s heavy hitters that he has arranged to speak at luncheons, many whom he now counts as friends.

“Tommy’s greatest quality was his tenacity,” long time friend and fellow Hawthorne Club founder Tim Morton said. “He was a like a dog with a bone. Once he got his teeth into something, you couldn’t shake him. He was still pulling strings at the ARU up until the past couple of years. He has been a tireless worker and contributor to the game.”

Maddern was awarded life membership of the Hawthorne Club in 2016, a title he also has at Wanderers and the Newcastle Referee’s Association. In 2007 he received the Order of Australia Medal for services to rugby.

An accountant and business management consultant, Maddern was instrumental in the redevelopment of No.2 Sportsground.

Maddern, along with Ron Robson, Glenn Turner and then NHRU general manager Fenton Coull did much of the paperwork and lobying to obtain government grants for the $9 million facility.

“He has been a great servant going right back,” NHRU Patron Ron Robson said. “His organisation and tenacity to get things done really came to the fore. He had a lot of contacts and was a great worker for rugby. As well as a worker, he was a great friend and will be sorely missed.”

As a referee, which included about 40 first-grade games, it was Maddern’s way or the highway, or in many cases the sideline.

“He was actually a pretty good referee,” Turner said. “A control freak, he didn’t like anyone chatting him. He used to send them to the sinbin. I got binned frequently.  He was always good natured about it. He was a very competent man and did a lot of work for Wanderers and the NHRU over a lot of years.”

Maddern is survived by wife Jan and daughters Sally and Haley.

A funeral service will be held at St John’s Anglican Church, Parry St, Cooks Hill on Thursday at 11am.

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