Glen Jackson - a Great Life in Rugby
Glen Jackson has had a great life in rugby, and it is not yet over. We found this out when he attended the SANZAAR referees’ camp in Stellenbosch recently.
For roughly half of his 44 years he has been intensely involved on the field as a key participant in first class rugby matches on four continents. Phase 1 and Phase 2 may have ended but there is possibly a third phase to come.
The first phase was playing, which included six seasons of Super Rugby with the Chiefs on the Waikato, followed by six seasons with Saracens in North London. The second phase was 10 years as a top referee, one of the best in the world.
While he is looking forward to Phase 3, naturally he looks back on some highlights. Home to Jackson is in the Bay of Plenty, named by James Cook who was impressed by the abundance of food there after the meagre food he got at his previous stop, which he called Poverty Bay. Bay of Plenty is Jackson’s home – boy and man, rugby player and family man.
Asked about playing highlights, the first one Jackson said was “Winning the Ranfurly Shield with Bay of Plenty.” That was in 2004. It surpassed his six seasons of 60 matches with the Chiefs, starting in 1999 and winning the Churchill Cup with the Maori All Blacks in 2004 when they won the final in extra time.
In 2004, Jackson signed for the Saracens of North London, then a club struggling to avoid relegation from England’s Premiership. Saracens gave him his second playing highlight – the Premiership final at Twickenham in 2010, even though Saracens were beaten that day by Leicester Tigers. That was Jackson’s 130th match for the club and his last match as a player.
It was not his first time at Twickenham, for he had played there for the Barbarians the year before when the Baa-Baas beat England. (One of his team-mates in that match was Schalk Brits who was in the 2019 Springbok team which won the World Cup.)
Jackson was soon back at Twickenham.
Home he went to Bay of Plenty, no longer a player but a novice referee. For years and years, the refereeing custom was that new referees started on the lowest rung and worked their way up, “gaining experience” along the way. Jackson jumped straight onto the top rung.
In 2011, the man in charge of New Zealand refereeing was Lyndon Bray, a former Test referee. He got Jackson refereeing in provincial matches in no time. As Jackson himself has said, Bray took a risk but it paid off superbly. In his first year, Jackson refereed Super Rugby and in just his second year of refereeing he had his first Test – at Twickenham. What a splendid place for your first Test. That day England beat Fiji 54-12 but it must forever be most relevant that Glen Jackson, so recently a player, was now a referee on a big, big stage. That was affirmation indeed of Bray’s faith and leadership and Jackson’s innate ability – his feel for the game, his athleticism and his ability to communicate, the good face of refereeing.
Other highlights have followed – refereeing at the 2015 Rugby World Cup when England were hosts and the Super Rugby final in 2016 when the Hurricanes beat the Golden Lions. Lots of highlights as there must be in 32 Test matches and 88 Super Rugby matches as well as all the other matches – the only man to play 100 first class matches and then referee 100 first class matches.
One hopes that the highlights outshine the disappointment of his shock omission from the panel of referees for the 2019 World Cup in Japan, incomprehensible as it was.
Phase 3? Jackson is committed to Rugby New Zealand till March and will be helping with the development of young referees in New Zealand, but then he starts coaching the Bay of Plenty Under-19 side, and is in fact looking forward to involvement in coaching as a third possible rugby career.
As with Phase 1 and Phase 2, he could make a huge success of Phase 3.