NRL 2021: Kiwi referee Henry Perenara hangs up whistle with heart condition

Controversial Kiwi NRL refereee Henry Perenara has had to hang up his whistle, suffering from a heart condition that threatened to affect his onfield performance.

Perenara, 40, has told the Daily Telegraph that he has been diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia, causing his heart to beat abnormally fast, with symptoms of shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating or fainting.

While he carried the condition through much of his career, alarm bells really began ringing recently, when he almost passed out in training recently.

"I nearly blacked out," he told the Telegraph. "I don't remember much of it, but that's when I had to make the decision to give it away.

"You certainly don't want to risk it happening in a game. It's not life-threatening, but it's not good either.

"It's happened in games, but I've just tried to mask it."

Most recently, Perenara hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons, when he awarded a crucial NZ Warriors try against Canberra Raiders, despite a seemingly forward pass in the build-up.

Afterwards, NRL head of football Graham Annesley confirmed the try should never have been allowed, but pointed out that Perenara had only been called up to officiate shortly before kickoff.

This week, Annesley paid tribute to New Zealand's only active referee in NRL first grade, who had presided over 335 matches - 205 as onfield referee - including six playoff games and three State of Origin encounters as a video ref. 

Before that, Perenara played 72 NRL matches with the Warriors, Melbourne Storm, St George Dragons, Parramatta Eels and Cronulla Sharks, notching up a test for the NZ Kiwis and five outings for the NZ Maori.

He is also the cousin of dual international Sonny Bill Williams and All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara.

"He turned to officiating at a time when we ran a little campaign to try and get former players involved in refereeing," says Annesley. "There was a lot of work done to bring former players in on what were effectively cadetships.

"Henry's been the most successful that came out of that period.

"We wish him all the best from a health perspective. We hope he overcomes his health problems.

"He's in reasonable shape, so it's not as if he can't continue his normal life, but the stress and pressure, and physical exertion of refereeing an NRL game is not what's required of him."

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