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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.'
Bay of Plenty sevens expert Gordon Tietjens takes his first NZ team to Fiji. They didn't win the tournament there but Tietjens stayed coach for 20-plus years
It was with great sadness but with a sense of inevitability that the famous Athletic Park ground in Wellington, New Zealand was pulled down in 2000. For over 100 years it had been known as the ‘Home of Rugby in New Zealand’.
Situated in the base of a high-sided valley running down to Cook Strait, Athletic Park was always in an exposed position, and was battered many times over the years by ferocious Wellington winds. The salty spray contributed to decay in the metallic stability of the double-tiered Millard Stand and after much local angst a decision was made to abandon the site for rugby and move to a new stadium in the city area of Wellington.
While there were many famous days on the superb playing surface, for both Wellington and All Black rugby, it is for its most infamous bad weather days that many remember Athletic Park most fondly.
The worst came in 1961 when the Wellington Rugby Union’s new pride and joy – the Millard Stand – was being ofﬁcially opened on the day of the France v New Zealand match. The southerly storm that weekend brought in winds gusting up to 80 mph (140 km/h) – one of the worst days in Wellington’s history. A large luxury liner, the Canberra, was so buffeted in Cook Strait that the ship could not enter the harbour, just a few miles away. Yet in this tempest a test match was played!
New Zealand won 5–3, with Don Clarke, the All Black fullback, kicking a sideline conversion that travelled across the wind in a crazy curving arc.
Athletic Park has also had its moments in the mud, no more so than in 1977 when the British Lions played the New Zealand Juniors. Not a single player from either side could be recognised at the end of the game.
But Athletic Park could be as effective a playing location as anywhere in the world and on its many top days, presented a ﬂat true ground and seating for the fans that was always close to the action. The record attendance was the 57,000 who crammed in to watch the second test between New Zealand and the British Isles in 1959.
New Zealand played its ﬁrst home test match at Athletic Park, against Great Britain in 1904. In the 1980s the All Blacks scored some handsome wins on the ground, including 42–15 v England in 1985, 46–15 v Argentina in the World Cup in 1987, and 49–12 v Argentina in 1989. In 1992 New Zealand beat a strong World XV 54–26 and in 1997 they posted the highest test score on the ground, beating Argentina by 93-8.
In its last years it became obvious that the facilities which are needed to service a modern rugby match were not all present at Athletic Park. It had very poor players’ changing rooms; there was one shabby function room and no permanent corporate boxes. And though there were some fierce debates about the ground’s future, the advantages of a new stadium in the city were overwhelming. The last test match was played on June 1999. Fittingly the All Blacks gave the old ground a great send off, beating France 54-7.
Who was known as 'The Olympic All Black" - and why?