Glen Jackson is at the top of his profession as one of the best rugby referees in the world. But two things he avoids are Facebook and Twitter.

"I've never been on social media, thank goodness. I don't understand in our job how you can really not be affected by things that go on in social media," Jackson says.

However, the former Steamers and Chiefs first five-eighth, who lives in Omokoroa these days, acknowledges that public criticism of his performances comes with the territory.

"The media is there and it's pretty hard to get away from sometimes. You get some negative feedback about your performance and if you can't accept it, well then you're in the wrong industry."


It's obvious from the accolades he's received during his refereeing career, Jackson must have made far more correct calls than wrong ones.

On Thursday night, the first New Zealander to both play and referee 100 first class games is again a finalist for Referee of the Year at the New Zealand Rugby Awards, a show Jackson knows pretty well after winning this trophy in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

But being a finalist again is still a big deal.

"Of course it is. Of the 10 Super Rugby referees, six are from New Zealand so to be acknowledged through the awards is special."

The other finalists are former Black Fern Rebecca Mahoney, who this year started refereeing Heartland Championship matches, and Richard Kelly, who's regarded as probably the best sevens referee in the world.

Jackson is part of a strong Bay of Plenty influence at the highest level of New Zealand refereeing.

Bryce Lawrence is the national referee manager at New Zealand Rugby and Paul Honiss is the country's high performance referee coach.

Both former international referees live in Tauranga, as does Nic Briant, another of the six-member professional panel and George Haswell, just appointed to the national squad for 2019.


Craig Joubert, the South African who controlled the 2011 Rugby World Cup final and now works for World Rugby, has recently moved to Tauranga too.

For 43-year-old Jackson, the scrum is still the most difficult area of the game to control.

"It is a complex thing, the scrum, but we review our matches a lot and reckon we get it about 80 per cent right. You talk to props too and they think we get it right about 80 per cent of the time in terms of awarding penalties after a collapsed scrum."

But he thinks attitudes to the scrum, especially in the southern hemisphere, have improved.

"It's getting a lot better in terms of completions. We've really put a lot of pressure on players, and coaches, to own this part of the play and if you want to make a mess of it, you're not only ruining it for us but spectators and those watching on TV as well."

But he still wants the scrum to be a competition for the ball.


"It's no secret that tight head props are probably the highest paid players in the world, but we're lucky here that teams, from the All Blacks down, want to use scrums as a platform from which to form an attack."

Despite the recent controversy over the disallowed try in the All Blacks-England test last month, when the England forward Courtney Lawes was deemed off side, Jackson thinks controlling the offside line isn't that "overly difficult".

"You have two ARs [assistant referees] and that's essentially their role."

But recent years have seen a huge change in the way defences are organised and that's created issues.

"Teams train so hard to stay onside, but the line speed is the biggest change in the last four years. Players are sprinting off the [defensive] line quickly, making everyone think it's offside."

He has an interesting take though on any suggestion of electronic assistance to determine whether players are offside.


"More technology is not what people want," he says.

"For referees, it would be brilliant because it would be a yes or a no, but I actually think people who watch rugby don't want yes or no answers. It's a topic for the rest of the week to talk about. Was he or wasn't he? That's what makes our game so great and referees either get it right or wrong."

Whether or not the right or wrong call has been made, Jackson says the best referees have to be honest with themselves.

"If you can accept that you haven't had a good performance, then you can accept the media around it. But a lot of the criticism is unfair, and that does hurt because you never have a say."

"It's a big topic around World Cup time. Who looks after us?"

Referees are still bound by the game's authorities, either World Rugby, Sanzaar or New Zealand Rugby from commenting on or explaining their decisions.

After Thursday night, Jackson's next moment in the spotlight will be the Six Nations match on February 24 between Italy and Ireland in Rome.


The 2019 Rugby World Cup appointments haven't yet been made but as one of the 12 referees who worked at the 2015 event, he's almost certain to be in Japan in September next year.