| New Zealand Amateur Sport Association Inc.

William HarringtonATACK

The first referee in New Zealand, and perhaps in the world, to use a whistle for the control of the Rugby game was William Harrington Atack.

Atack recalled that at the time he took up rugby refereeing there were two umpires and a referee, noting that “the umpires used to quarrel with each other and the referee”. While the referee was in charge of fixtures, he had to use his voice to stop the game, and often “the voice had to be exercised loudly”, which Atack “found exhausting”.

Thinking it over one day, his fingers strayed into his waistcoat pocket, where he encountered a dog whistle. The inspiration came to him that “it would be a fine thing” to use the whistle to stop the game.

The next time he refereed he called the teams together and they agreed to play to the whistle; It was a great success and was speedily adopted all over the country. This, he recalled, was about 1883. “Playing to the whistle” has since become a rugby maxim.

Picture: William Atack, was first in the world, in 1883, to use a whistle for rugby.