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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.'
With one test win each NZ and South Africa battled on this day to a 0-0 game in the mud and slush of Athletic Park in Wellington; and the test series is tied.
Hawke’s Bay, East Coast and New Zealand
9 internationals for New Zealand 1924–30
A legendary figure in a legendary team, the 1924 ‘Invincible’ All Blacks. Only 19 at the time, George Nepia played all 38 matches during that gruelling tour of Australia, Britain, Ireland, France and Canada.
British sides were unstinting in their praise of Nepia, the rock on whom so many of their attacks foundered. His courage under the high ball and in repelling foot rushes, the crunching certainty of his tackling and the strength of his spiraled line kicking – all of these combined to restrict opposition teams to no more than 180 points against the All Blacks in the 38 games.
Nepia could also run with the ball. He had started his first-class career as a wing, then a five-eighth, before outstanding fullback displays in 1924 resulted in his being chosen as the only last line of defence. Early in the tour of Britain he made a sizzling run, but the dictatorial Mark Nicholls told him to leave the running to his five-eighths and three-quarters: his job was to defend. It was not until the 37th match of the tour, in Canada, that Nepia scored his first try!
A bogus telegram which advised the selectors of Nepia’s ‘unavailability’ cost him a place with the New Zealand Maoris’ trend-setting tour to Britain in 1927, and his All Black career finished after the 1930 home series against the British Isles. After a temporary retirement, Nepia returned to bid for a place with the 1935–36 All Blacks to tour Britain but was surprisingly not selected, though then playing as well as at any time of his career.
With his financial security in tatters at the end of the Depression, Nepia readily accepted the lure of rugby league money and played two seasons in England, and then for New Zealand. Reinstated to rugby in what was then called the ‘war-time amnesty’ which allowed rugby league professionals to return without recrimination to the amateur rugby union, Nepia played for East Coast in 1947, and in 1950 captained the Olympians club in a first-class fixture against Poverty Bay. George Nepia, father and son, were the fullbacks and captains on this historic day, George senior being 45 years old at the time.
He became an active referee and many spectators went to games just to watch Nepia referee, rather than see the two teams doing battle.
After the finish of the 2011 Rugby World Cup who were the youngest and oldest players from all countries to win a World Cup medal 1987-2011?