Link To Apple Podcast Episode with Ben O'Keeffe
Link to Ben O'Keeffe podcast episode on Spotify Podcasts

Ben O'Keeffe is a rugby union referee and ophthalmologist (eye doctor) from New Zealand. He referees at the domestic, super and test match level and was one of the assistant referees in this year's Rugby World Cup final in Japan. 

O'Keeffe became an official referee in 2013 and has since officiated 43 ITM Cup matches, 48 Super Rugby matches, 20 test matches and now this year took control of 4 World Cup matches. In this episode of the Rugby Bricks podcast, we chat Rugby World Cup 2019 and this tournament had the highest number of red cards ever handed out by referees, how Ben deals with being both a doctor and referee, handling the pressure of the players and dealing with the crap that comes from the crowd. 

In this episode, you'll learn what it looks like to deal with second by second choices when taking the world stage and making some of the hardest decisions a referee can make. This is an episode for any players or coaches who need to learn how to communicate with the referee and make sure they're with you and not against you. 

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

You can find more about Ben's charitable work and social enterprise oDocs here:


Today's episode is brought to you by K&J Growth. My business partner here at Rugby Bricks, Kale Panoho is also one of the managing directors at K&J Growth which is a marketing agency with offices in New Zealand, Los Angeles, and the United Kingdom. Since Kale has come onboard here at Rugby Bricks our revenue has grown by over 350% from our previous year and the year isn't out yet.

The team at K&J built our website Rugby Bricks and Kale was responsible for landing our last episode with Aaron Smith in over 6 different news outlets across the world. K&J currently handles the growth of companies like Tik Tok, Comcast and over 25 other businesses big and small from all over the world. If you're in business or looking to get into business K&J is offering $500 off of your first website build or a free 30 minute consultation on how to scale your business just head over to and in the contact form enter "Rugby Bricks" and what you're looking to do to take advantage of this offer.


(0:31) Intro Context - Space Jam Movie


(1:26) Ben O’Keeffe Rugby Referee Profile


(1:49) Ben’s Ophthalmology LinkedIn


(4:02) Episode Sponsor - K&J Growth, Website, LinkedIn


(4:05) Kale Panoho’s LinkedIn 


(7:04) Ophthalmology Practice, Medical Summary


(17:15) Ben’s Refereeing Style, Media Report


(18:07) Willie Lose, Former Tonga Rugby Player, Current Commentator


(20:44) Six Nations Season Review, June 2019


(28:19) 2014 IRB Junior World Championship, Match Officials


(29:24) Ireland vs Wales, Six Nations Game Match Report


(29:29) England vs Italy, Six Nations Game Match Report


(29:54) Clontarf Rugby Club, Ireland 


(30:23) Argentina vs Scotland 2016 Match Report


(37:02) (1:38:41) Glen Jackson Rugby Referee Profile, NZ Herald Opinion


(38:44) Wayne Barnes, Rugby World Cup Referee


(40:40) Ben’s World Cup Games: Australia vs Fiji, France vs USA, Scotland vs Japan


(40:56) Typhoon Hagibis


(41:48) Use of Two Referees in Rugby, The Guardian Opinion, Practice in NRL,


(44:40) Nigel Owens, Jaco Peyper, Rugby Referees


(47:01) Controversy Over High Tackles, Rugby World Cup


(47:36) “High Tackle Framework” Refereeing Strategy for the World Cup


(51:01) Lyndon Bray, Head Coach/Referee Manager


(51:12) World Rugby’s Statement, Stuff Report


(51:50) (1:04:06) Wayne Barnes, Nigel Owens, Jaco Peyper, Jerome Garces, Senior Refereeing Officials


(53:41) (54:50) RugbyBricks Kicking Tees


(59:59) Alhambra Union Rugby Club, Dunedin


(1:01:45) Referee Manager New Zealand, Bryce Lawrence


(1:03:12) Heartland Rugby


(1:10:13) Crusaders vs Waratahs 2018 Super Rugby Match


(1:21:07) Gilbert Enoka, All Blacks Manager, Mental Skills Coach. LinkedIn


(1:25:57) Penalty Try Rule Explained


(1:27:01) Mike Cron, All Blacks Coach, “Scrum Guru”


(1:28:00) Jason Ryan, Crusaders Scrum Coach


(1:29:49) Ben Skeen, TMO Referee World Cup - Media Backlash After WC Mistake


(1:32:33) Acme Thunderer Whistle, Rebel Sport


(1:38:09) Rebecca Mahoney, First Woman to Referee Ranfurly Shield Match


(1:38:42) Jamie Nutbrown, Rugby Referee (Now Retired)


(1:39:31) Joy Neville, International Referee


(1:40:08) Selica Winiata, Manawatu Rugby Player and Referee


(1:43:44) Episode Sponsor - K&J Growth, Website, LinkedIn

More About Ben

  • The Sports Chronicle Interview


    One of our listeners and longtime mentor to Kale and lecturer to both Peter and Kale, Adain Summerfield has taken the time to create useable lessons from each episode which we've named grow notes. In these notes, you'll time stamps to tools from what was mentioned in the episode and hopefully something you can put into practice on and off the pitch. 

    Learning to make decisions under pressure

    15:30   Making big decisions that have significant outcomes under pressures

    Step into high(er) pressure situations to learn how to perform calmly and confidently under pressure; pressure situations become normal

    19:00   Develop belief you can to well under pressure

    Life management/balance

    19:42   Managing a full diary

    21:09   Keep hand in the game; Keep logbook (skills) going

    22:07   Refreshing to do other things

     Sharpening up quickly after a break

    24:45   How do you brush up quickly after a break?

    25:45   Review streamlined notes – specific, include triggers

    26:25   Practice processes, find intentional rehearsal opportunities, simulations to “do” skills

    Peak performance in a team (as assistant referee)

     32:23   Know your role – focus on what you need to focus on

    36:01   Communication in down-time with team, collaboration, creates trust

     Effective Review Processes

    65:35   How do you overcome low points?

    68:19   Ignore/reduce social media – public criticism

    70:15   Own up “I made a mistake”; recognize gap in ability

    73:00   Have a review process – supported by peers

    73:19   What happened? How can I/we do better? Find solutions, create systems

    75:35   “Continually grow, continually learn from mistakes that you make”

    76:50   Embrace mistakes to learn from them. Don’t brush off “this won’t happen again”

    Power of Preparation

    78:57   What does your week look like?

    79:50   Experience improves performance over time

    81:08   Gilbert Enoka – remove clutter

    Monday review (decisions/data); relate to annual performance plan; journal

    Monday to Thursday: do bulk work; address identified work on’s from review

    Friday: “Captains run”, streamline; verbalise

    Saturday/Game day: remove clutter; be calm and relaxed; fresh, clear head

    90:18   3 game day cues: work rate; set up (game, scrum, space); control (captains/players)

    Kale Panoho