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Steve Walsh to referee the NPC Final

'I'm very happy'

Steve Walsh of North Harbour has been appointed to referee the final of the 2005 NPC when Auckland play Otago at Eden Park on Saturday. Not surprisingly he is happy about the appointment.

He said to Planet Rugby: " I'm really pleased to get it as I had had a couple of weeks off at the beginning with injury and had a bit of work to do to make sure I was refereeing well.

"Obviously when I got selected for a semi, I thought I'd missed out on the chance to ref the final, but as luck would have it, I struck a really good game between Otago and Canterbury, and that always helps in the selection process."

"Clearly in NZ we've had excellent referees like Paddy O'Brien and Colin Hawke who have dominated controlling the finals in recent years, and to be honest, it has been a goal of mine to ref a final, once Paddy had moved on. So I'm very happy."

Astonishingly he is only 33 and has been refereeing first class rugby in New Zealand – and all over the world – since 1994. Then he was younger than most of the players on the field. Now he will be older than all of those in the final, but not by much. He had been a child referee.

Walsh played rugby till he was 13 and successfully at provincial level. Then he suffered a spinal injury, a congenital problem really,  which ended his playing career. Later a friend suggested that he try his hand at refereeing, which he did in 1986. That meant that by the time he got to representative rugby he had eight season's of experience behind him.

He was called Junior then, because in Wellington there was another Steve Walsh who was refereeing provincial rugby, a tall man whose nickname was Sklylab. Skylab has stopped but some still call Steve Walsh Junior.

There were things that have helped him along the way – like his understanding of the game, his keenness for the game to keep going, his fitness which brings him to the spot, his easy, direct manner and his rapport with the players.

He says of the final to come: "Generally I find that finals are more like test matches, closely fought, more pressure, so perhaps not as open as round robin matches.

"Most local journalists though will be saying that both have got plenty of ability with the ball in hand – as we've seen this season.
"This is my first final… and obviously my last game for the year, so I'm hoping to go well."

It may be Walsh's first final and he may be the youngest ever appointed to a final, but there is no lack of experience. After all he has refereed 79 NPC matches, many Super 12 matches – over 150 first class matches in all. And he has refereed 21 Tests. He got his first Test in 1998 (at the age of 26) and it was no soft sop to youth. It was Argentina vs France in Buenos Aires, the first match of the series. France won the match 35-18. Since then he has had many great matches and has been to two World Cups. On 2003 he refereed one of the quarter-finals.

Probably his most notable recently was the Six Nations match between Wales and England at Millennium Stadium this year when Wales won 11-9 en route to a Grand Slam.

Steve Reid Walsh was born in Cambridge, Waikato, on 28 March 1972. He is a full time referee.


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