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The world’s first professional Rugby Referee


Paddy O’Brien is an entertaining and motivational speaker, the world’s first professional Rugby Referee and is currently the HP Sevens Referee Manager.

Born and Bred Southlander, and one of nine children educated at Sacred Heart Primary and Marist Secondary joined the NZ Police as a 19-year-old in 1978 serving fourteen years in Invercargill and three years in Oamaru being a detective for seven years.

Paddy took up Rugby refereeing in 1984 and became the world’s first professional Referee when the game changed from being amateur in 1996.
He refereed the first ever professional match the Super 12 game between the Hurricanes v Blues in Palmerston North and went on to Referee 80 Super Rugby Matches including three finals, two Rugby World Cup tournaments including the semi-final match between England and France in 2003 and 218 1st class matches which is still to this day the most by any New Zealand Referee.

By his own admission his career highlight was refereeing the 3rd and deciding international between the British Lions and Australia in 2001.

Accolades and awards
Ending his career in 2005 having been awarded NZ Referee of the Year on seven occasions he was recognised in the 2005 Queens birthday Honours list with the ONZM for services to Rugby Refereeing.

Current work
After retiring in 2005, Paddy has been employed by World Rugby - firstly the 15s High Performance Referee Manager (eight years) and now as the HP Sevens Referee Manager.

Speaking work and MC-ing
Paddy is an entertaining after dinner speaker or MC who will keep you engaged with stories from his refereeing career including humorous tales from his travels.

Paddy is also a motivational speaker, addressing corporate audiences on the need to Control the Uncontrollables as he relates his days in the Police, and in the International Rugby Arena where he had to overcome adversity and disappointment to reach the top of the Refereeing Tree.

We were so privileged to have Paddy at our event. His presentation resonated with our builders and he talks about leadership including the highs and lows, building good teams and growing participants values, working under pressure, adapting to change in sporting technology and living to your values. We were wrapped to have Paddy, his humour and wit making our event a great night of entertainment. Registered Master Builders Association

Paddy was our guest speaker and our four 2019 Private Portfolio client investment seminars. At all four locations the clients were engaged throughout his talk, with a lot of chuckling going on around the room. We received some great feedback from clients and Paddy even managed to loosely tie his speech subject into investing! This was a new format we were trailing with our client seminars and it proved to be a success with Paddy as our first speaker.

Kiwi Wealth
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