IT has been a magical couple of months for Saddleworth’s Super League referee Robert Hicks who has reached the pinnacle of the sport by officiating at three of rugby league’s showpiece games.
The 37-year-old, who was raised at The Three Crowns, Austerlands, took charge of the Challenge Cup final, Grand Final and first test between England and New Zealand at Hull’s KC Stadium.
And when asked how he could surpass those achievements, Hicks replied: “The goal has to be to do it all over again.
“As a referee, you want to take charge of as many games as possible.”
Hicks, who took charge of his second Grand Final, admitted his first Challenge Cup final was special as he took charge of Catalan Dragons who defeated Warrington Wolves.
He said: “As a referee, it is everyone’s dream to officiate the Challenge Cup final at Wembley.
“For a lot of the younger people, the Grand Final is the biggest game of the season.
“For people from my era, the Challenge Cup was the big showpiece game of the season. It is a tremendous stadium and it turned out to be a brilliant game.”
Hicks, a former pupil at Oldham Hulme Grammar, added he was nervous before the Wembley game, but that is good as he channels that positively into his performance.
He said: “Once the whistle sounds, you are too busy physically and mentally to be nervous.
“The game went really fast and it is a case of getting through the game decision by decision, though you try to enjoy the occasion.”
Hicks refereed the 2016 Grand Final between Wigan Warriors and Warrington Wolves and this year was a repeat at Old Trafford with Warriors again winning by an almost identical margin. It was 12-6 in 2016 and 12-4 this time.
Refereeing the England v New Zealand test was a thrill, though it is by no means his first taste of international rugby.
Hicks refereed at the Four Nations Tournament in 2016 and the Australia v France game at the 2017 World Cup.
Looking back on the three recent showpiece games, Hicks was pleased how they went for him.
He said: “There were one or two controversial decisions for the fans, but not the referee.
“We officiate to standards and my decisions were based on the processes and policies we work to.
“There will always be incidents in a physical game like rugby league and you will make mistakes as people also do in their everyday lives.”
Hicks, the son of former Oldham RL and Keighley player Ray, began refereeing aged 16 after realising he would not make it as a player.
His father recently retired after being landlord of The Three Crowns for 40 years as he was Saddleworth’s longest-serving licensee.