How did Dennis Spagarino die? Rugby League referee cause of death Explained

How did Dennis Spagarino die? Rugby League referee cause of death Explained

Rugby League referee Dennis Spagarino passed away at 70 with MND. Let us see more details about this Rugby Referee and his cause of death in detail.

Dennis Spagarino Career Journey

Spagarino, 70, was a life member of the NSW Rugby League and the Referees Association. His legacy includes the referees who oversee the Rugby League World Cup Finals, NRL Grand Finals, and the State of Origin. He spent decades coaching junior referees, served as a video referee, and was elected Chairman of the NSW Referees Association.

Spagarino was one of the inaugural recipients of the Australian Sports Medal, which former Prime Minister John Howard instituted in 2000 to mark the start of the new millennium.

In terms of rugby league, he and former captain Kevin Sinfield have been at the forefront of the fight against MND in England. Sinfield raised £7 million through three challenges—running seven marathons in seven days, 101 miles in 24 hours, and most recently, completing seven ultramarathons in a week.

However, in Australia, the MND patient was a referee.

NSWRL Referees Coach

Spagarino, 70, was graded from Western Suburbs and progressed to become a highly successful first-grade referee where he controlled 22 matches from 1984-88.
He went on to take on the role of NSWRL Referees Coach and played a crucial role in assisting the development of officials who would go on to NRL careers.

He also held the position of Chairperson of the New South Wales Rugby League Referees Association (NSWRLRA). Former first-grade referee and NSWRLRA Executive Officer Greg McCallum said Spagarino contributed to a great deal of the ambiguity around referee nominations.

As the association’s head, he gained valuable knowledge of how the refereeing industry operated, according to McCallum. “Since communication was his priority, he later established close ties with organizations like the NSWRL and NRL.

Because not everyone can officiate Test matches and championship finals, he was able to deal with people of diverse personalities and skill levels.

Awards and Recognition

As well as NSWRL Life Membership, Spagarino was also awarded Life Membership of the Western Suburbs Referees Association. NSWRL director and NSWRLRA chair Keith Greene said Spagarino was highly respected and greatly admired. “And that’s not just with the refereeing community but the Rugby League world as a whole,” Greene said.

“He made a significant contribution to the refereeing ranks on the field but even more importantly off the field as well, both as a coach and his long-term commitment to his profession.” Spagarino was also one of the first recipients of the Australian Sports Medal in 2000 after it was brought in by former Prime Minister John Howard.

“He had a good balance between the managerial-administrative side of things but was always concerned with people’s welfare,” McCallum said. “He cared about you personally as well as your refereeing ability. “He wore his heart on his sleeve and that made him a very approachable and considerate person.”

Cause of death

The NSWRL was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of respected refereeing giant and NSWRL Life Member, Dennis Spagarino, who recently lost his battle against motor neuron disease. Rugby league and Motor Neurone Disease will always be connected, for better or worse, thanks to Rob Burrow, a legend of the Leeds Rhinos.

This is beneficial in some ways since it has made a new population aware of the challenges presented by the illness. In order to generate funds and awareness, the rugby league community is now doing a fantastic job supporting the MND community.

Burrow’s battle with the illness for which he received a diagnosis in December 2019 is, of course, heartbreaking.


The NSWRL passes on its sincere condolences to his wife Karen, daughters Debra and Joanne, his extended family, and the many friends of Dennis Spagarino.


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