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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.'
In Amsterdam the Farah Palmer-led Black Ferns blitzed USA 44-12 in the final. Out of 5 games played in 14 days the 44 score was NZ's lowest in any game!
The famous Scottish rugby commentator, a man who set standards in the art of television commentary which, in the end, gained him worldwide acclaim.
Raised in the Scottish border town of Hawick, where he was a teacher all his working life, young McLaren was a good enough player to earn himself a Scottish trial in the years immediately after his service in World War II. However illness struck him down and during a lengthy stay in hospital he began broadcasting over the hospital radio system.
On his discharge and unable to play anymore he took to rugby commentary. From his beloved Mansfield Park in Hawick he started on a career at the microphone that was to last more than 50 years. His first international call was on radio for a Scottish Districts game v South Africa while during the 1951-52 tour.
His reputation grew quickly and by 1953-54 he was commentating Scottish test matches from Murrayfield. He recalls how that same winter the BBC sent him to Cardiff to observe the great New Zealand radio man Winston McCarthy in action. Bill tells the story of being amazed at how excited McCarthy got during a game. ‘At one stage he nearly fell forward out of the commentary box. I had to hold his coat to keep him in the box!’
The big change for McLaren came in 1959 when, though continuing to be a shcoolmaster, he changed to working part-time for BBC television. For the first time TV commentary of rugby was turned into the unique form it is today. No more endless verbiage as required in radio description, instead an attention came to identification of players by face and number; there was explanations given of refereeing decisions; plus identification of the placement of the game on the field. And most uniquely to McLaren, entertaining background and statistical information about the personalities in the game. The man himself filled large sheets of background notes on every player taking part in every fixture he worked on. The ‘sheets’ became sought after souvenirs and sometimes were auctioned for charity at rugby dinners.
McLaren lived by his attention to preparation; he often told budding broadcasters ‘the secret of good broadcasting is never to neglect your homework.’
He did all his work to perfection and became a huge personality in the game. It was all done with a gentle Scottish accent and cheerful attitude to life which was admired with affection all over the world. His influence over all things was perhaps summed up by one Scottish player, lamenting a narrow loss one time in the Five Nations Championship. Said the player, ‘aye, we’d have played much better if Bill McLaren had been commentatin’.’
Bill continued at the microphone until he was close to 80 years of age. He retired from BBC TV in 2002 after exactly 50 years of international broadcasting. The reaction to his departure was amazing, with much media coverage in press, radio and TV and, of course from his many fans around the world who had learned much more about rugby because of his lifetime’s commitment to it.
Who were the players who first took successfully kicked test match penalties past the 6,7,8, and 9 World Record Marks?