AUSTERLANDS referee Rob Hicks played his part in a historic rugby league occasion, taking charge of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final for the first time.
Hicks, son of former Three Crowns pub landlord Ray Hicks and Saddleworth Rangers’ club treasurer Karen Thompson, was the man in the middle for Catalans Dragons’ 20-14 Wembley upset of pre-game favourites Warrington Wolves.
Catalans’ victory was the first time in the competition’s 121-year history the cup has left England.
“I really enjoyed it,” said Rob, whose performance was rated as eight out of 10 by popular RL trade paper League Weekly.
“They were two great teams whacking each other,” he smiled.
“Both teams were physical and the ruck was hard but it was a good game.
“I wasn’t nervous, I was more excited,” added Rob. “It is the biggest game in rugby league.”
Happily for Rob, who also took charge of the 2016 Super League Grand Final between winners Wigan and Warrington, the game passed off without any real controversy.
Colleague Ben Thaler – the game’s video referee – was involved in the main talking points; disallowing Tom Lineham’s try for Warrington with an obstruction verdict and awarding Dragons’ Ben Garcia a touchdown through a ruck of bodies on the try line.
Both sides had hands on knees as the game reached its conclusion but Rob and his touch judges were still going strong.
“We do a lot of training,” he smiled. “We know it can come down to a last call in the last seconds.
“Hopefully after this I might be in line for another Grand Final or a test match at the end of the season.”
The Three Crowns remains empty but Ray “is enjoying his retirement and looking the better for it,” added Rob.
On Rob’s appointment, Steve Ganson, head of match officials, commented: “He has delivered consistently high-level performances throughout 2018. This appointment was recognition of those efforts.”