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You are here: Home » To the 1994-2005 International Referee Paddy O'Brien
This Ten Questions idea is to ask a leading rugby personality; be he or she a player or referee, someone from the the media or an administrator some questions which may prompt a response from them which we might not have heard of before;
Paddy O'Brien (or to be factually correct Patric Denis O'Brien) was a rugby fullback and winger in his playing days and a sprinter in summer athletics. He was also a policeman in his hometown of Invercargill in the southern most province of New Zealand. But Paddy's life was headed towards change when he made the decision to take up refereeing. His sound judgements and speed about the field had him earmarked as a referee of promise from his start in 1984. By 1992 he controlled New Zealand Universities v England 'B' in Wellington, his first step above New Zealand rep fixtures. In the following year, 1993, he controlled the British Lions v Hawkes Bay match and in 1994 he controlled the Springboks v Wellington. These were signals to Paddy that he had a career in refereeing which was going to perhaps prove more challenging than to that of being a police detective. He resigned from the Force and took up professional refereeing in 1996. He was only 36 years of age. His first international appointment had come in 1994 When he did Korea v Hong Kong in Kuala Lumpur.
With the advent of full professional rugby Paddy became a regular touring referee. In 1997 he did England v Scotland at Twickenham and thereafter was a consistent appointee until 2005. He attended two Rugby World Cups, in 1999 and 2003 and in the end became New Zealand's record test referee, controlling 37 test matches.
After his retirement in 2005 he accepted the appointment From the IRB to become their Head of Refereeing Officials. This proved a turbulent time for Paddy and many times he was centre of the world's media and its questioning of rugby laws, decisions and refereeing staff. He was in that position until 2012. After his resignation he took up a further position for the IRB controlling the referees on the World Sevens circuit.
Paddy lived for a time in Dublin but is back in his beloved Invercargill from where he nonchalantly commutes many thousands of annual miles to international events all over the world.
1) Who were your heroes in sport when you were growing up?
I was crazy about all sports; I loved all the All Black teams in the 70s and 80s. Then there was NZ's Commonwealth Games Gold medal winning 10,000 metre runner Dick Tayler, and the NZ rowers and the Gold Medal winning Hockey team. I also think of the great John Walker. The 70s and 80s were fantastic as I used to listen to the fantastic achievements unfold on the radio and then in my mind then I had to picture the experience. It was all great fun.
2) Not counting where you live now; is there a favourite other place on earth you would like to live in?
This may surprise some people but I love Samoa. I love the way the people there are so relaxed and their way of life is about family and friendship and not material goods.
3) Is there a trait in your personality that you do not like? My impatience to idiots.
4) What is the trait you most deplore in others? Dishonesty and people who only have the guts to knife you from behind.
5) Do you have a great fear or superstition of anything? I just hate enclosed spaces and I cannot stand being near tall story balconies.
6) In all your life what do you consider your greatest and most proud achievement? Being the father to my 4 wonderful children.
7) What is your most treasured possession? I have my late Mums' rosary beads and I also have her St Christopher medal. Those two things go with me everywhere on my travels. Somehow I feel Mum is looking after me if I have them in my possession.
8) What is your idea of perfect happiness? One thing I really like is just sitting around with my family and just watching them be themselves - and reflecting how lucky we are to live in the great country of New Zealand.
9) What is something that you feel you haven't yet achieved in your life? Travelling around the North Island of New Zealand with my wife Carolyn. We have been to many parts of the world yet have never taken the time to really discover some parts of our own country.
10) What has been a kind of 'motto' that has got you through life - to where you are today? Well, I often think 'I am no better than anyone else on this earth - but on the other hand there is no one on this earth better than me.'
The All Blacks beat Australia 38-3 at Eden Park. Commentator Bill McCarthy described the action as the cameras rolled.
Wellington and New Zealand
18 internationals for N. Zealand 1987–89
One of the rugby union world's most brilliant attacking fullbacks of the 1980s but who at the peak of his rugby union powers, was lost to rugby league.
John Gallagher was a young fullback living in London who decided to accept an offer of a rugby-playing holiday in Wellington, New Zealand in 1984. By 1986 his life had changed. He had decided to stay in New Zealand, he had embarked on a career with the police force, and late in the year he was included with the New Zealand All Blacks for their tour to France. He was very much a second-stringer on that tour, playing twice at centre.
It was a different matter in 1987. Given the confidence of being chosen as the number one fullback for the first Rugby World Cup, Gallagher’s speed and brilliant intrusions from fullback became a powerful weapon in the All Black armoury.
In his second test match, against Fiji at Christchurch, Gallagher scorched in for four tries (equalling the then New Zealand record for one test match) and helped make many more as the All Blacks raced out to a 74–13 win.
Gallagher played five of the All Blacks’ games at the World Cup, including the final, and was seen as one of the tournament’s most brilliant players. That kind of form followed him through 1988 and 1989, on four other All Black tours.
In May 1990, Gallagher, by then firmly ensconced as one of the country’s most popular sporting heroes, suddenly announced that he was heading for rugby league. The news sent shock waves through New Zealand rugby circles. There was at first disbelief and a little scorn from some, although soon emotions quietened and sensible Kiwis wished him luck in his new career.
The departure of Gallagher to rugby league, along with fellow All Blacks Frano Botica, John Schuster and Matthew Ridge, awakened New Zealanders to the realisation that their national game was not the only one on the sporting horizon. The departure of ‘Kipper’ Gallagher also left an extremely hard-to-fill gap in the All Black backline. No player would be quite like the flying redhead from the Oriental-Rongotai club in Wellington.
Gallagher signed with the Leeds rugby league club after 18 tests for the All Blacks. He scored 13 tries in tests, and in one game, in Japan in 1987, he scored 30 points. His signing fee was reported to be $NZ1.3 million (at the time about £420,000), well in excess of the previous reported world record fee.
Piri Weepu played 71 tests for the All Blacks; how many times did he play for the full 80 minutes?