Bryce Lawrence yesterday announced that he is done with refereeing at all levels and will step down with immediate effect to concentrate on a back-office role within the NZRU.
Lawrence has won few friends outside of his native New Zealand in recent years, with his ham-fisted (and often downright biased) handling of games attracting the ire of opposition coaches, players, administrators and fans alike. The Sharks felt the sharp end of his whistle during last year’s Super Rugby knock-out game against the Crusaders, when Lawrence effectively blew them out of the contest before it had begun, with his handling of the scrums, in particular, leading pundits to question whether he actually knew any laws at all, or was just making stuff up as he went along.
Our misery was shared by the greater South African rugby public later the same year, when Lawrence again did the dirty on a team from the Republic. This time around, there was far more at stake and it was thanks in no small part to a frankly shocking display from the man in the middle, particularly at the breakdown, that the Springboks lost to Australia in a World Cup quarter-final match in which they were clearly dominant throughout.
One fan, though, decided that enough was enough and that something ought to be done; that man was our very dear friend (and rabid Sharks man) Marky Warren, owner of the Pharside blog and well-known London socialite. Not prepared to sit back and watch this officious Kiwi cheat ruin the game for South Africans any further, Warren started a petition on FaceBook to force the IRB to remove Lawrence from their panel. That page attracted 85 000 likes and while it may not have played a direct part in the IRB’s decision to stand Lawrence down (apparently we can thank John O’Neill for that one, ironically), Lawrence himself admitted yesterday that the reason behind his career change was fan pressure and the abuse he took on Facebook./
“It got pretty bad,” Lawrence said. “Not really threats on my family as such, there was a concern, but it was mainly aimed at me through social media. On Facebook they launched a ‘get rid of Bryce Lawrence‘ site and it was pretty nasty. That was absolutely the reason for my career change.”
Cheers Bryce. We hope you have better success in your future career away from the pressures of top-class refereeing. Perhaps now others will learn that being the man in the middle doesn’t mean you have to be the one in the spotlight.Tweet