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International rugby referee graduates with sport MBA


Sharlene King
4 May 2011
Stuart Dickinson, one of rugby’s most elite international referees, clocks up a milestone of a different kind this week when he steps up to the podium to receive his Master of International Sport Management from Southern Cross University.

Planning for life after he blows the final whistle, Stuart, 42, started a Bachelor of Business Administration five years ago, before doing the extra units to finish with a Masters degree.

“When I started with fulltime refereeing I wanted to ensure that when I transitioned away from rugby at the end that I’d done some relevant degrees in business studies," Stuart said.

"Southern Cross University seemed to be one of the good ones in terms of correspondence courses. Because of my travel commitments, I just couldn’t attend lectures all the time, so doing it by distance was going to be the best option for me."

Stuart, who lives in Sydney, is on the road four to six months of the year, travelling to Europe for the Six Nations, and back to New Zealand, South Africa and Australia for the Super Rugby.

“So the idea of distance education and the way it was set out, where they would send me the course material so I could study that as I wished, working around appointments and travel.

“And if I needed an extension or anything then that was fine and so it was just that flexibility that was fantastic.”

Stuart’s love of rugby started as a five-year-old running around the field. He was refereeing by the time he was 12, later playing fly half and fullback for his school, Epping Boys High.

In 1988 Stuart decided to make refereeing a fulltime career and hasn’t looked back. He made his Super Rugby debut in 1996 and Test debut a year later. He has clocked up 47 Test matches, 94 Super Rugby matches and three World Cups.

But the former police officer admits juggling study, a professional sporting career, work (Stuart works part-time for Adventure World Travel) and the demands of a young family (Michael, nine, and seven-year-old twins Emily and Isabella) hasn’t been easy.

“Training, travelling, refereeing and also preparations for those matches is a tough ask so there is a fair bit of sacrifice, and on my wife’s part as well as family life, but it’s well worth it in the end.

“I’ve had the world’s best job. My hobby turned into my occupation and you can’t ask for better than that. But you’ve got to replace that with the next challenge and find a role that clearly ignites you in terms of managing people and all those disciplines and positive aspects that have come out of refereeing rugby.”

Stuart said gaining a Masters of International Sports Management would pave the way.

“Refereeing at that highest level … it is essentially creating a framework around managing people and managing conflict in order to achieve the desired outcome. I will look to take those skills learnt during study, on the rugby field, the life lessons from world travel and the mix of different cultures and people and transfer them into a management role, be that in sport or business.”

Around 700 students will graduate from Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus this week. Three ceremonies will be held on Friday, May 6, starting with the Graduate College of Management and School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, followed by the School of Health and Human Sciences, then the School of Commerce and Management and School of Law and Justice.

On Saturday, May 7, there will be two ceremonies, beginning with Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples and the School of Education, followed by the School of Arts and Social Sciences and the School of Environmental Science and Management.

The awards will be conferred by the Chancellor The Hon John Dowd AO QC.

One Chancellor’s Medal and six University Medals will be presented for Academic Excellence.

Media opportunity: Stuart Dickinson will be at SCU's Lismore campus on Friday, May 6, for the 9.30 am graduation ceremony. Proceedings are expected to conclude around 11 am and Stuart will be available for interview afterwards. Photo: Stuart Dickinson after being named Super Rugby referee for 2007.