Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art
Normally I don’t pay much attention to what’s happening on Twitter. After the Reds hung on to beat the Chiefs for the first Australian win of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman I saw this tweet:
If I knew Nic Berry was the ref I would’ve put $100 on the reds to win this 😂 #REDvCHI
— Temp Hawks fan (@Yeezy77_) May 29, 2021
The tweet is obviously meant to be tongue in cheek. But, it got me thinking. Could a referee really swing the odds in favour of the average punter? And if so by how much? Surely with all the stats, cameras and review panels if a referee really did swing the probability one way or the other it would be picked up.
But once I saw that tweet, inspiration struck and, I decided to do some digging. I can’t bet on rugby and to be honest outside of the occasional bet at the races or on the golf course I’m not really that way inclined. But, I know many of my friends and readers are. So, I figured I’d see if I could help you guys gain a competitive advantage on the bookies to who I know many of you have donated so much money over the years.
Who is Nic Berry?
Before taking up refereeing. Nic was a promising scrumhalf in the QLD Reds system. After making his debut in 2005 he played 33 times for the Reds. In 2007 he successfully secured a release from the Reds and Super Rugby to take a contract with Racing 92 where he would make 51 appearances before signing with the London Wasps in 2010. His career was cut short in 2012. After making 46 appearances for the Wasps a series of concussions in 2012 forced him into early retirement.
Not long after retirement Nic took up refereeing. He quickly rose through the refereeing ranks and made his Super Rugby debut in 2016 when the Stormers played the Sunwolves. this achievement made him one of the very few referees to have played rugby at the highest level.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Nic Berry has officiated 52 Super Rugby games at the time of writing. And this week has been named as one of the referees for the upcoming Lions tour of South Africa.
Below I’ve compiled a list of all the teams that Nic has been the man in charge of and included each teams winning percentage when he referees. The list is ordered by the number of times he has officiated each team.
The only team with a higher winning percentage than the Reds is the now-defunct Jaguares who won their outing against the Rebels in 2018. The only two teams close to the Reds are the Crusaders (83.3%) and the Hurricanes (88.9%).
Super Rugby Teams Win % When Nice Berry Referees
As I mentioned above Nic made his debut as a Super Rugby referee in 2016. Between 2016 and today the Reds boast a win percentage of 40.8%. In Nic’s defence, he didn’t referee the Reds until 2020 (before COVID-19 shutdown the season). In that span, the Reds win % is 51.2%. And, given the bulk of the games he’s refereed have been in the 2020/21 Super Rugby Au and 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman seasons (9/10 have been in this span) the Reds win percentage climbs to 58.8%.
Interestingly at a minimum, we’re looking at a boost to the Reds win probability of more than 30% when Nic referees them.
Reds Win % Since 2016
There’s always going to be some variance when you do a study into numbers. But a 30% per cent bump north is huge when you consider that in the 2016 Olympics the difference between 1st and last place was about 2.5%.For context, if we run the same experiment on the two teams Nic has officiated on more occasion than the Reds (the Brumbies and the Waratahs). The Brumbies win percentages are 58.6% since 2016, 64% since 2020 and 57.6% in Super Rugby AU and Trans-Tasman. But it dips to 45.5% when Nic Berry is the man in charge. The Waratahs win percentages are 30.1% since 2016, 16.7% since 2020 and 16.7% in Super Rugby AU and Trans-Tasman. When Nic referees that number is 27.3%.
Like a players impact on a game, it is difficult to measure a referees impact because it’s subjective. And, the unfortunate reality for referee’s is, if we’re not talking about them it means they had a good game. Fortunately for this study, we do keep discipline stats.
Since 2020 teams on average are penalised 11.1 times per game for a total of 22.2 penalties per game. Nic on average when officiating the Reds dishes out 20.7 penalties which is below the average overall. However, on average when Nic referees the Reds he penalises them 8.7 times. The opposition on average is penalised 12 times. So on average when Nic Berry referees the reds are penalised around 20% less than the Super Rugby average while the opposition gets penalised around 8% more.
The other statistic we keep in the discipline category is red and yellow cards. On average in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman, there are 0.525 yellow cards and 0.05 red cards issued per game. Nic is a little bit above the average in his 10 games in charge of the Reds issuing 0.8 cards per game. Given the higher opposition penalty count, it stands to reason that the Reds opposition would be sent to the bin more often. The red card distribution is about right. 1 red in 10 games isn’t anything to worry about.
|Result||Reds Pen||Opp Pen||Reds Yellow||Opp Yellow||Reds Red||Opp Red|
|Game 1 vs Sunwolves||Reds W||9||13||0||1||0||0|
|Game 2 vs Waratahs||Reds W||9||18||1||1||0||0|
|Game 3 vs Force||Reds W||9||5||1||0||0||0|
|Game 4 vs Brumbies||Reds L||12||7||0||0||0||0|
|Game 5 Vs Brumbies||Reds W||9||11||0||0||0||0|
|Game 6 Vs Rebels||Reds W||6||9||0||0||0||0|
|Game 7 vs Brumbies||Reds W||6||12||0||0||0||0|
|Game 8 vs Brumbies||Reds W||8||15||0||0||0||0|
|Game 9 Vs Brumbies||Reds W||8||21||0||3||0||0|
|Game 10 vs Chiefs||Reds W||11||9||0||1||0||1|
What I love about numbers is that they don’t lie. Having said that, I appreciate that numbers don’t tell the full story. But these numbers do seem to indicate that when Nic Berry is in charge of a Reds a game they win. So, back to the reason, I decided to write this article. The answer is yes. If Nic Berry is the referee of a Reds game the statistics suggest that the Reds will win. Do with information what you will.