Oh Boy: O’Brien Notches up 150th Dewar Appearance

Fri, May 12, 2023, 3:48 AM
Rugby Vic Media
by Rugby Vic Media
Darren O'Brien chats with Harlequins skipper Ant Van Zyl: AGD Images
Darren O'Brien chats with Harlequins skipper Ant Van Zyl: AGD Images

Amidst the high stakes pageantry that saddles every Quins and Melbourne showdown, the most influential person in this weekend’s Match of the Round may well be a less obvious figure.

The man in the middle, referee Darren O’Brien, will be overseeing the fixture in his 150th Dewar Shield outing.

Despite acknowledging his best performances are those where he goes unnoticed by the crowd, O’Brien’s milestone match will cast a larger spotlight than usual on the whistle blower.

We chatted with Darren to hear some of his best rugby tales from over the years.

Rugby Victoria (RV): How did your refereeing journey begin?

Darren O’Brien (DO): While I was at school in Sydney, I used to referee the juniors in the morning and play senior school rugby in the afternoon.

Not long after I left school and played a few seasons of club rugby I quickly realised my potential as referee was in total disproportion to my abilities as a player and they even called you Sir.

RV: What do you recall of your first match as a ref?

DO: I don’t recall my first match as a referee, other than it was a very long time ago, but my first appointment in Victoria after moving down from Sydney with about 10 years of experience by then was to an U12 Power House Juniors game to see what level I was, overseen by Angus Bydder, the appointments officer at the time.

I was very nervous as those u12’s can be very tricky! I think I must have done alright as I was appointed to Premier 2 the following week and did the Dewar Shield Grand Final the next season, so I must have been a fast learner!

RV: Who influenced you most as a referee during your developing years?

DO: There have been some fantastic and really dedicated referee coaches in Victorian Rugby over my career down here; Kevin Maloney, Alistair Grigg, Gordon Cheyne and Paul Mckay, all of whom were also very good referee’s as well.

Their support, coaching, mentoring and diversity of perspectives has been invaluable. You never stop learning no matter how many games you do.

RV: You bring up 150 Dewar games this weekend! Why did you choose the Quins / Melbourne game to oversee and how are you going to celebrate the occasion?

DO: I have had the pleasure to referee some great clashes between these two clubs over the years. Both teams are always up for it and seem to lift a few extra notches when they play each other.

Quins is a great ground, more of a cauldron with the club house so close to the field and there is always a large and vocal crowd. The fact this match coincided with my 150th was by luck, not design but if I had designed it, this would have been the game.

A celebration of my 150th game will not to be noticed on the day. You know a referee has had a good game when people only notice the players!

RV: What’s been the most enjoyable part of the journey for you? Any special games you've been a part of that stand out?

DO: I have refereed in Victoria for around 20 seasons. I have made many friends and I have always felt welcomed and respected at every club and ground. That alone is very special.

Just like the players, I love finals rugby and I have been very lucky to do a couple of Grand Finals and quite a few semi and preliminary finals. The stakes go up, the tempo goes and so does the pressure!

I love it and it is what stills gives me the motivation to be as good as you can be every week

RV: Best advice you've ever been given as a ref?

DO: “It does not matter whether your decision is right or wrong it is how well you sell it that counts “.

No surprise that came from a fellow referee and referee coach, I won’t name other than by his nickname Hollywood!

RV: On behalf of the community, we thank you for your service and wish you a good call for Saturday.

Can't watch Darren in action? The Quins vs Melbourne Match of the Round will be livestreamed on our Facebook page from 3:10pm.


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