Former Australian Test referee Andrew Cole has been acknowledged for his services to the sport, handed the World Rugby Referee Award.
Cole started his refereeing career in 1988, making his Test debut nine years later as he took charge of Samoa v Tonga.
Across his time as a referee, he would officiate in two Rugby World Cups as well as three Tri-Nations and five Six Nations Test matches.
All up, Cole took charge of 31 Test Matches and 44 Super Rugby matches before transitioning into a coaching position.
He would eventually become the second-ever Australian to be appointed to World Rugby's Match Offical Selection Committee in 2013, implementing policies designed to protect the welfare of referees.
“It’s an unbelievable privilege, truly unbelievable. I’m deeply honoured to win this award,” Cole said as he accepted the honour.
“I’d like to think Joel Judge and Sir Bill Beaumont and anyone else who’s involved in the selection of the award. I’m grateful that my schooling was at Marist College Ashgrove and that introduced me to Rugby.
“I’m also grateful to Australian rugby for taking a punt on a group of referees when we transitioned from the amateur to the professional era. When I hung up the boots, they allowed me to coach referees, many who were and are far better referees than I was.”
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“On behalf of the Australian Rugby community, I would like to congratulate Andrew on this award," Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos said in a statement.
“Andrew has been involved in our game for over 40 years, both on and off the field at all levels of the game and is most deserving of this recognition.
“He was often seen mentoring the next generation of referees at varying levels of national competitions. His contributions to the growth and development of our game cannot be underestimated. This award is fantastic recognition of his passion, professionalism and dedication over many years."