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Tributes to Terry Friend as his funeral details are announced

10 Jun 2022 21:01 | Devon RFU

FORMER team-mates and rivals from the rugby and cricket communities have been remembering Terry Friend following his death at the age of 76, writes Conrad Sutcliffe.

Friend played rugby for Torquay Athletic and Brixham in the 1960s and cricket for long-defunct Shiphay St John, Paignton, where he was a county cup-winning skipper, and Devon. He was also an accomplished ballroom dancer who took up the pastime as a schoolboy and continued with it into his early 70s.

As a rugby referee he rose through the ranks to become one of the top 10 whistlemen in the country and was shortlisted for international duty, but never took charge of a Test match. He regularly refereed matches involving top club sides such as Bath, Bristol, Wasps, Harlequins and leading Welsh teams such as Llanelli and Cross Keys.

When Friend’s active playing days finished in the late 1990s he turned to administration and coaching, concentrating mainly on rugby and in particular training up-and-coming referees. He also coached a youth team at Exeter Saracens for two seasons.

Among the first to pay tribute to Terry was Bob Staddon, now the president of Exeter Chiefs but in his playing days an opponent on rugby, cricket fields and ballrooms as well as a Devon CCC team-mate in the 1970s.

“More than anything I remember Terry as a very talented rugby referee who took charge of Exeter games many times,” said Staddon, who was a contemporary of Friend’s at St Luke’s College in the 1960s.

“Terry would not stand any nonsense and you always knew where you stood with him.

“I played cricket with and against Terry and his hard hitting was well known. I distinctly remember playing for Devon against Somerset 2nd XI when he took their bowling apart.

“Terry and I shared an interest in ballroom dancing and I saw him on a number of occasions. For a burly gent he was very light on his feet and I will always remember him dancing the tango at a competition in Plymouth many years ago.”

Bob Lovell, the former Brixham and Torquay Athletic front-row forward, knew Friend as rugby referee and admired his handling of games.

“We were pushing for promotion and were due to go to Matson, who were having a bad patch of players being sent off at the time,” said Lovell.

“The game was seen by league officials as a problem so Terry, by now reffing at a much higher standard, was given the game along with two refs running the line.

“I well remember how Terry totally gave a master display on how to deal with problems on the field.”

Dean Davies, the chairman of the Devon Rugby Referee’s Society, said Friend was an ambassador for refereeing whose reputation and influence spread far and wide.

“Terry first joined the society more than 50 years ago and went on to referee at the highest levels,” said Davies.

“He also served the society as a committee member, organising exchanges for referees across the country and as far afield as the USA.

“Every Devon referee who went on exchange would be greeted on arrival their club with someone asking ‘do you know Terry Friend?’ as his influence was not confined to the South West. 

Latterly, Terry was South West Group manager, organising referees at level five from Cornwall to Buckinghamshire. It is in that role of developing referees as a coach, advisor and assessor that he will be remembered, as tributes from societies across the South West have shown.”

Friend had a reputation from his earliest days in the middle as a no-nonsense’ official, as Davies discovered the first time they met.

“My personal first encounter with Terry was as second-team manager at Barnstaple,” said Davies.

“One of our players looked shocked at a decision Terry made and politely enquired as to why it was made?

“Clearly it wasn’t polite enough for Terry and the player took no further part in the game!

“That was Terry as a referee: he would not stand for any nonsense!”

Terrence Roger Friend was born in Crediton in 1946. Although the family were Brixham fishing folk they were living with his grandparents at the time. Brother Richard came along two years later.

Father Richard worked in the town clerk’s office in Dartmouth and as his career in local government progressed the family moved to Leamington Spa then Kidderminster. 

When Richard and wife Joan separated in the early 1950s, mother and sons moved back to South Devon.

It was around this time that Terry started ballroom dancing in classes held in a studio above Burton’s the tailors in Victoria Street, Paignton.

Friend attended Collaton St Mary Primary School on the outskirts of Paignton and, aged 11, won a place at Torquay Boys’ Grammar School. The next stage of his education was St Luke’s College in Exeter, where he trained to teach maths and PE.

After leaving St Luke’s Friend joined the staff at Montpellier School in Paignton, a private school with a strong sporting reputation, especially on the rugby field. 

Friend was talented spotted on the cricket pitch as a teenager and played for Devon Colts in the early 1960s. He also had a trial with Worcestershire in 1964. After a brief flirtation with South Devon CC he joined Paignton and remained there for 20 years until leaving the area for a job with British Steel in Northamptonshire.

Friend had two spells as Paignton CC captain – 1976-77 and 1980-83 – during which they won the Devon KO Cup three times and were runners-up once. He appeared 19 times for the county team and average more than 20 as a batsman.

As grammar school rugby player it was inevitable Friend would be directed towards Torquay Athletic and he made his 1st XV debut as a teenager. As a full-back or centre he was often required to deputise for Mike Caunter when he was away on Devon duties.

Friend suffered a broken leg while playing for Torquay against Brixham in 1966. When he recovered, and found games hard to come by at the Recreation Ground, he switched to Brixham RFC.

“Terry was an excellent and quick utility back, who joined us for the 1968-69 season but did not play regularly, remembered team-mate Ray Gardner.

Friend switched to rugby refereeing in 1971 and clocked-up a quarter of a century with the whistle. 

After Terry left teaching he ran newsagents in Brixham and Newton Abbot before moving with the family to Northamptonshire then Staffordshire to work for British Steel as a analyst.

Terry was a member of the Leicestershire Rugby Referees’ Society at first, then switched to Staffordshire before moving back to Devon in the early 1990s.

He first joined the Devon RRS in 1971 and remained with the society until 1978. He re-appeared again between 1981-1986 and re-joined again in 1991 having returned to Devon from the Midlands.

Knee trouble brought an end to Friend’s rugby refereeing career in 1996, when, by now working for the National Health Service, he started devoting his total energies to administration.

Friend was already a Devon RRS official and served on the management executive in a number of roles between 1991-2015. Those included referee advisor (1997-2019) and exchange secretary (1997-2015). He was involved in administering the South West Federation of Referees from its inception in 2006. Devon RRS made Friend a life member in 2002.

Friend was elected to the Devon RFU committee in 2005 and stayed a member until his death. One of his first achievements was to launch county cup competitions for players aged 13-16 with prestige finals at Exeter Chiefs’ ground.

At various times Friend was either a member of or chaired Devon’s governance committee (2006-13), discipline panel (2006-2014) and competitions committee (2006-2022).

Devon RFU President Ken Jeffery said: “Sporting clubs of all sizes require volunteers to assist the organisation into the future and the expression ‘putting something back’ was very attributable to Terry following his rugby playing days. Not only as a qualified referee of a high standard and later as an assessor of referees performances but also until the last year serving the Devon Rugby Football Union where he chaired the competitions committee and organised age grade youth competitions.

“His enthusiasm for the game was widespread as he moved around the UK with his employment and joined the Leicestershire and Staffordshire Referee Societies in earlier years.”

Jeffery said that he had known Friend for 20 years and added: “He demanded high standards from colleagues, was forthright with his opinions and as a “doer” did not satisfy everyone. Underlying his character was a determination to care, energise others and get the job done.

“Terry will be missed around the county where there will be many warm reflections of the efforts he applied over the years.

“Such a shame that Terry at 76 did not complete the 80 minutes and receive the Ref’s Extra Time.”

Terry Friend died at his home in Uffculme in East Devon on May 29. His three children – son Adam and daughters Danielle and Suzy – survive him together with long-time partner Josie.

His funeral will take place at the Exeter and Devon Crematorium on Friday, June 17 at 3.30pm. A reception will follow at the nearby Buckerell Lodge hotel.