Billy Thompson: RFL pays tribute to former referee who died aged 87

Billy Thompson
Billy Thompson officiated the 1980 State of Origin opener between New South Wales and Queensland

Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer has praised Billy Thompson's "outstanding career" after the death of the referee aged 87.

Thompson refereed World Cup games and Tests during 25 years as an official, plus the first State of Origin match in the modern format in 1980.

He also made the first Challenge Cup final dismissal, sending off Leeds' Syd Hynes against Leigh in 1971.

"I got to know Billy well. What a character," Rimmer said.

"You only have to speak to players of that era to appreciate the respect in which he was held."

Injury brought Thompson's career to an abrupt end in 1984, after the Wembley cup final between Wigan and Widnes.

Before that, he had officiated in 17 Tests, including the 1977 World Cup final in Sydney between Australia and Great Britain, and worked both in England and down under.

At the time of his retirement, former Great Britain and Wigan skipper Eric Ashton, one of five greats immortalised on the Wembley rugby league statue, said: "When the history of rugby league is written, fitting tribute will be paid to many of the great referees - and foremost among those names will be that of Billy Thompson."

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