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The NRL has been saddened following the passing on Tuesday of former leading referee Kevin Roberts, aged 76.

Mr Roberts officiated in 272 first grade matches in a distinguished career from 1975 through to 1988.

He refereed three grand finals (1983-85), six State of Origin matches (1982, 1984-86) and four Test matches (1984, 1986).

Roberts was a Life Member of the Eastern Suburbs Referees Association, the South Sydney Referees Association and the NSW Rugby League.

As a player, he also represented South Sydney in 13 first-grade games (1960-62 and 1964-65).

“Refereeing lost one of its finest last night,” NRL General Manager Officiating Tony Archer said.

“Kevin’s on-field achievements were outstanding, but it was his support of others which stood him out from the rest.

“He always displayed a strong discipline - no doubt a quality from his policing days - and instilled that as a requirement in all young aspiring referees.

“The thoughts of the entire refereeing group go out to Kevin’s wife Annette, his two daughters and three grandchildren.”