Author: Adam MacDougall   Date Posted:23 April 2017 

FORMER rugby league referee Bill Harrigan is one of Australia’s greatest sporting umpires.

He was able to excel in State of Origin football and keep up with the fittest players while making tough decisions in the blink of an eye thanks to his superhuman ­fitness levels.

“Refereeing was a challenging job but I wanted to do it to the best of my ability and that pushed me to train harder,” he says.

“Being fit ­allows you to get around the park better, to get to the spot to make the decision. But it also allows your brain to stay active while you’re running around, and that allows you to communicate, which is the key to being a good referee.”

Harrigan obtained his amazing negotiation and conflict skills prior to becoming a fulltime referee from his job as a member of the police tactical response group, special weapons and operations unit and as a police negotiator.

“I enjoyed my time in the police force and the important lessons and skills I obtained which no doubt helped my referee career,” Harrigan says.

“If you’re fit you don’t feel stressed as much and you’re able to make better decisions in life ­because you’re not fatigued. If your body’s unfit, your brain’s fatigued, you make mistakes and you just don’t feel good.”

Since retiring, Harrigan has been giving his time to help run training sessions in his local community.

Not only does he get great satisfaction from helping people to improve their health and wellbeing, but he also enjoys the extra motivation to train.


ONCE a disciple of the “go hard or go home” school of training, Harrigan has since realised that to have a healthy body for the long term you need to train smarter, not harder.

“It’s all about longevity. I have five kids and I want to be able to keep up with them for as long as possible, so whatever I do now, whether it’s boxing or running, it’s not as much, not as intense and just smarter.

“I know a lot of guys who a few years back went really extreme with their training and did things like run marathons and triathlons and are now paying the penalty today with bad knees and hips.”


LIKE his training, Harrigan takes a smart and simple approach to diet.

“I eat plenty of salad and make sure I get all the important things like protein and omega 3s,” he says.

“My staple lunch is Vita-Weats with tuna, tomato and cheese and at night I’ll have something like steak and vegies. And if I see something I want like a piece of cake I’m going to have it.”