Jackson revealed on Friday that he is retiring from refereeing after the personal disappointment of missing out on selection for last year’s World Cup in Japan.
In a statement released by New Zealand Rugby, the 44-year-old said “the time is right” for him to move on, although he still hopes to be involved in rugby over the coming years.
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The former Chiefs and Bay of Plenty first-five, who also played over 100 times for Saracens in the Premiership and represented the Maori All Blacks in 2004, hung up his playing boots in 2010 and made a swift transition into officiating that year.
Jackson made his first-class debut in the Heartland Championship, and made his Super Rugby debut just a matter of months later in 2011.
He would go on to take charge of 88 matches at that level, adding to his 60 matches in the Mitre 10 Cup and 32 test matches, which includes four appearances at the 2015 World Cup in England.
However, it’s during his time in Super Rugby where Jackson would have encountered Smith while playing for the Highlanders, where his competitiveness was clear to see for the outgoing referee.
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“I always enjoyed reffing Aaron Smith,” Jackson told Stuff.
“He’s a class player and I enjoy everything about how he plays. He certainly doesn’t stop talking and some refs might find that quite hard.”
As a former player, Jackson believed his own experiences helped him with players as chirpy as Smith, which he said wasn’t an uncommon trait for a halfback.
“The beauty of being a player, you learn they’re not the best referees,” he said.
“You realise it’s in the heat of the moment, how competitive he is, and he’d always come up pretty quick afterwards to say he probably went too far there. But I enjoyed his banter and how he played the game.”
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On the flip side, Jackson also knew to acknowledge where he had made a mistake with whistle in hand, which is an attribute he believed he garnered during his playing days.
“As a referee, you’re always going to make a mistake and it’s never that bad to say ‘sorry, boys, I clearly made a mistake there’.”
Jackson will stay on board with New Zealand Rugby as mentor for younger officials until March, and will travel to South Africa this weekend for a SANZAAR referee camp.
It isn’t known what his next career step will be, but after 25 years of distinguished involvement as a player and referee, another role within the rugby fraternity seems imminent.
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