Brandon Roberts included on National Referee panel

Brandon Roberts included on National Referee panel

Leading Counties Manukau Rugby referee Brandon Roberts has been included in the NZ National Rugby Referee panel for 2023 and will be involved in the NPC, FPC and Heartland Cup competitions.

Fresh off controlling his third straight McNamara Cup final, Roberts is the first local male referee to be in such a position for 25 years.

Formally known as the National Referee Squad, a revamp this year has seen the concept “regionalised” to the five franchises under Super Rugby. Roberts has been named in the Chiefs Referee franchise. The new model is designed to work in smaller groups and keep it close to home for greater connection, growth, and development.

“I was very surprised when the announcement was shared with the Referee Leads a couple of weeks back, when I saw my name in the Chiefs group,” Roberts said.

“I always aspired to challenge myself to make it to the next level. Now that it is here, I will grab it with both hands and do Counties Manukau and my family and ref mates proud.

“Refereeing is always preserved to be an individual sport, and for a small part in some grades it is, but for most parts it’s a big team of good people that love the game and what it is all about, and we rally behind each other as a referee team. My successes have come from many experienced referees, now ref coaches and mentors/selectors.”

While female referees Jess Beard and Lauren Jenner have proudly flown the Counties Manukau flag in the national squad in recent seasons, not since Nigel Bradley in 1997 has there been a male referee from local ranks involved at that level.

“Like all clubs that make up Counties Manukau rugby it is fantastic seeing one of our members take the step to higher honours,” said long-serving CMRFU rugby referee Bradley. 

“I have seen Brandon progress from a shy referee officiating secondary school games to a confident young man refereeing his third Premier final over the weekend.  We look forward to seeing him progress further.”

Counties Manukau Rugby is delighted for Roberts and chief executive Aaron Lawton likens this moment to having a player make the All Blacks or Black Ferns.

“We are immensely proud of Brandon and couldn’t be happier with the fact he’s earned this opportunity through his hard work,” said Lawton.

“Our purpose here at the CMRFU is to grow, empower and inspire our people through rugby and we are confident Brandon’s success will highlight to other would-be referees that there is a genuine refereeing pathway for those who aspire to the top.

“This is an inspiring story.”

Roberts’ first assignment is likely to be an FPC game between Northland and Otago in a couple of weeks.

“Every game I do is a learning opportunity,” he said. “I am my own worst critic as I review my games in-depth every week and pick out the areas of work ons to implement the following week. We never celebrate the good stuff enough as often the game and your performance get ranked or remembered for the one or two mistakes or missed sanctions.

“I have shifted my approach in review recently to every one mistake, find three great calls and compare the good with the missed or inaccurate call.

“Thanks to all the present and past referees and coaches for the support, mentoring, and encouragement in my referee career. Now it’s time to be a sponge, learn and pass on my experiences to the future talent.”