Another milestone for Jackson


Lynn McConnell     11 Aug 2015     Getty

For whatever reason, players who have played in the higher levels of the game are reluctant to don the referees' garb to extend their connection with the sport.

But Jackson, who played 60 Super Rugby games for the Chiefs, 51 games for Bay of Plenty, 49 games for Waikato and 130 times for Saracens while scoring 2913 points, made the switch after his career ended when Saracens lost the Premiership final to Leicester in 2010.

He hasn't looked back and in the space of five years has been sufficiently impressive to take his place among the referees who will control games at this year's Rugby World Cup.

In a playing career which also saw him appear for the Maori All Blacks, Jackson became the only player to have scored all four ways (try, conversion, penalty goal and a dropped goal) in a Ranfurly Shield challenge, while he also managed the feat on two other occasions, the only player in New Zealand to have done it three times.

He first thought about refereeing before he left New Zealand to take up his Saracens role in 2004 but didn't really get serious about the idea until the last season in England.

"It was a case of coaching, getting a real job or refereeing," he said.

The speed with which he moved through the grades had surprised him.

"It's been a hell of a lot of hard work but at times pretty rewarding as well. I never expected to start refereeing four or five years ago and go to a World Cup so I'm pretty stoked to be doing that."

Making the adaption from player to referee did have its issues, initially he suffered from calf muscle and lower leg injuries and he couldn't work out why. But after seeking advice it was due to the different forms of running he was doing.

Glen Jackson lines up a kick during a Saracens training session

He was having to run sideways and backwards, something he hadn't done before. Playing was more about running into people, or away from them.

While doing the different running there was also the need to respond to game by implementing its laws instead of trying to find ways of beating the opposition.

Jackson had no problem of achieving a 'feel for the game' and what was needed in match situations but admitted he had to do plenty of work on dealing with the set piece.
Dealing with the demands of the laws remains an on-going process and all referees are required to do an annual test to continue in their roles.

Watching other referees and how they handled specific situations aided his on-going education process. The lines they ran and their positioning was something that he was always learning from.

Observing how other referees handled tricky areas of play and how they got themselves out of trouble was another aspect and seeing how they talked to players and managed situations was another valuable lesson.

Preparation as a referee was markedly different from that of a player.

"In rugby you could prepare yourself for an opposition, and how to out-perform the opposition and what to do to try and get a win.

"As a referee you have to do exactly what is in front of you. You can prepare all you like but it's what is served up in front of you [that you have to deal with]. That and being able to think quickly on your feet.

"That has been the biggest change in terms of how you prepare during the week and what preparation you can actually do. It's about being ready for everything I suppose," he said.

In action during the RBS Six Nations match between Scotland and Wales at Murrayfield

He does have his own refereeing coach, Neville McAlister who is based in Wellington and was a former Super Rugby referee.

"He's been huge in helping me get to where I want and he's been there and done it, but more than just being a referee he understands what is important and what's not, when to blow the whistle and when not to. I work really well with him and he has been really beneficial for my career."

One aspect of his playing career that was advantageous to refereeing was his exposure to playing on some of the more formidable grounds around the world.

Having played on them helped when refereeing and it also reinforced the understanding of what teams put in to prepare for those games and how he ultimately viewed the action when it began.

When going to a cauldron like Millennium Stadium for the pre-World Cup game between Wales and Ireland it was a case of making sure he arrived with his A game and realising that because of its nature the best that could be hoped for was 50 percent of people agreeing with what he did in a game. But so long as he was happy with how it went, that was the most important thing.

As a player he wasn't so much a talker to referees as one who tried to work out how the referee operated and what you might be likely to get away with.

"What has really helped me is what I enjoyed from a referee and what they gave you on the field – how they defused situations or how they put fuel on the fire at times," he said.

There were times as a player that he became excitable like most first five-eighths and halfbacks and he understood in those circumstances didn't always mean what they said.

Sometimes it was just as important to know when not to blow the whistle as it was to know when to blow it.

"You could blow your whistle any time you want. Every ruck there is something going on, it's more about understanding what the game needs and when it is important to step up. You've just got to realise that you're never going to be 100 percent right in any game. It's just about understanding the times that you are wrong that you've got to go through it, and it's a massive talking point. You've got to understand that. That is the big art of refereeing."

Making a call during an ITM Cup match between Auckland and Counties Manukau

There were differences in refereeing styles of game, and they were not necessarily along the traditional lines of northern hemisphere v southern hemisphere. He said there were games were one side enjoyed a forward dominance and their approach was to keep the ball in tight, and that was something that required more from a referee in terms of control and awareness of points of law.

"I wouldn't say it makes your job tougher, it is more interesting and you have to be more switched on. It can happen anywhere.

"And if you look at the last round of Six Nations there were more points scored than in a round of Super Rugby because they all had to win and they knew it. It is certainly about the game itself rather than what happens within the hemispheres," he said.

On the playing side of the game, the highlights are now behind Jackson.

Winning the Ranfurly Shield had been one, because of what it meant to Bay of Plenty never having won the shield before and how they really got behind it while another was finishing his career with a final at Twickenham, even if it was a loss.

And from a refereeing perspective last year's ITM Cup final between Taranaki and Tasman was a highlight, again because it was two smaller provinces playing champagne rugby in front of a full house at Yarrow Stadium.

Chances are that having passed the double hundred milestone, Jackson is en route to achieving even more.