Briant hits 100 milestone

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Olivia Caldwell -     21 Aug 2015     Getty Images

Like all high performance professionals, Briant has worked hard to earn his 99 caps and he has done so in humble fashion. In 2009, he made his first class debut refereeing Wairarapa Bush vs Wanganui in the Heartland Championship. The following year he was privy to referee the Battle of the Bridge grudge match between Auckland and North Harbour for his first ITM Cup match and in 2013 he was the first referee to wear pink in Invercargill when he made his Investec Super Rugby debut in the Pink Batts-sponsored refereeing shirts as the Highlanders took on the Cheetahs.

The agricultural-engineer-turned-professional-referee says it is these first-time experiences that stand out in his memory in a growing career.
"I've had heaps of great experiences along the way which have been pretty special.

"I was lucky enough to referee the 2010 quarter final at the Hong Kong Sevens; the crowd there was amazing. I actually couldn't hear my whistle when I blew it."

New Zealand Rugby High Performance Referee Manager Rod Hill says Briant's achievement has come from his own dedication to training and continually learning from his matches.

Briant will be NZR's 16th referee to reach 100 first class games, made up of 81 first class fifteens games and 19 World Rugby sevens tournaments. Each sevens tournament counts as one first class cap.

"It is great to see Nick's progress and this achievement reflects several years of good growth. Nick is a key part of NZR's High Performance Referee Squad that is growing in depth every year."

After 99 matches, Briant says his career is just beginning and he has so much more he wants to achieve. Now that he has had a taste of Test rugby - Fiji vs Cook Islands being his debut last year - he wants to work his way up the ladder and make Test rugby a regular on his calendar.

Briant (34) is aiming high and hopes to make selection for next year's Olympics in Rio De Janeiro and is aiming for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan for the 15-man game.

"I want to get right into Test rugby. With this year being a Rugby World Cup year there are limited opportunities for a referee like me, but I will be aiming for a strong ITM Cup and Super Rugby season early next year."

Although refereeing has its perks of travel and free time during the day, Briant says he doesn't receive the glory a player gets and he actually prefers it that way.

"People don't turn up to the ground to watch me, and if we are being talked about it is usually for the wrong reasons. So it is a good thing to go unnoticed."

Like the players, today's referees also face the challenges of scrutiny through social media, which is something that Briant has learned to deal with and doesn't take too much notice of anymore.

"Once upon a time you could just rock up to your game and take the attitude of 'what happens on the field stays on the field'. Now with social media the way it is, decisions and mistakes can hang around for weeks. The referees also have a high level review process after every game, so nothing goes unnoticed and nothing is left unsaid."

Briant says he is not one for reading about himself in the papers, as it can often leave a referee deflated and although he hasn't had any real "bagging", he expects that he will come under fire as he climbs the ladder.

The perks of the game far outweigh any negatives he said and what he enjoys the most is working alongside some of the world's best athletes.
So today while Briant prepares for his 100th first class match, it will be "business as usual" for him.

"I'll continue doing the job and if I go well I might sit down and enjoy a quiet beer afterwards."

Nick Briant’s – first class matches
Debut -2009
Super Rugby – 25
ITM Cup – 33
Heartland – 10
First Class – 12
IRB Sevens – 19
International – 2