Northland Rugby League, Life Member, Graham Pitts has received National recognition in the form of an NZRL Distinguished Service Award. The Award was announced on Monday at the NZRL AGM. Mr Pitts may be better known in Northland as the “Spy on Bank.” Writing a weekly article in the Northern Advocate about his observations of what was happening on the field at Jubilee Park. Mr Pitts, who said he started the column on the request of the Northern Advocate Editor after he complained about the lack of publicity of Rugby league in the paper, “I did it because of my love of the game, I never received a cracker for my work, not even a free paper!”
Mr Pitts has been involved with Rugby League in Northland for over 67 years, he started with the now defunct West End Jumbos in 1949 and a junior player. “I’ve pretty much done everything there is to do with Rugby League,” he said. Some of his many accolades include being a Northland Board member for over 35 years, starting in the late 60s through to 2005. He has been Director of Coaches, Referee Appointee, Secretary as well as a long serving judicial member.
When asked how he felt about receiving the recognition, Mr Pitts was a little lost for words, “It’s still sinking in, it swept me off my feet a little, but I’m really chuffed and satisfied that I am getting recognition.” He said. When asked about his thoughts on the current state of affairs Mr Pitts was complimentary, “Things are going well, Rugby League Northland has come a long way in the last couple of years, ever since they started working in schools.”
RLN General Manager, Alex Smits, commended Mr Pitts’ service to the game, “Anyone who serves the game for over 30 years on a Board deserves the Victoria Cross for bravery! But in all seriousness, to receive an accolade like this is a great reflection of Graham’s dedication, they don’t just hand these out to anyone.” Smits said.
“One thing about Mr Pitts is he a real historian of the game, his father kept a scrapbook which he then carried on. As we are a new organisation one thing I want to be able to achieve is to compile a history of League in Northland, there is a lot to be proud of as Northlanders, I have been talking with Graham and he is quite keen to help us in the this process.” Smits said.
Mr Pitts will receive his award personally next year at the NZRL Annual Awards ceremony which will coincide with the next edition of the NRL 9s in Auckland.