Ashley Klein is set to make history when he takes charge of the Rugby League World Cup final between Australia and Samoa this weekend.
The referee will become the first man to have officiated all three State of Origin matches, the NRL grand final and a World Cup final in the same year.
Ashley Klein to make history with appointment as World Cup final referee
The feat has been done before five years ago, when Gerard Sutton achieved it, but this was during the two-ref system where he had Matt Cecchin working alongside him.
In 2022, Klein has established himself as the leading official in the game, dislodging Sutton who will act as the back-up for the grand final in Manchester.
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“To referee a World Cup final at Old Trafford is pretty special,” Klein said upon his appointment.
“It is an amazing place. I was lucky enough to do three Super League grand finals there, so I understand how special it is.”
The match between the Kangaroos and Samoans will mark Klein’s second World Cup final, having also officiated in the 2008 Kiwi boilover against Australia in Brisbane.
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He was once again the man in the middle for the semi-final clash between the two Trans-Tasman rivals last weekend and drew praise from former St Helens forward and current pundit John Wilkin.
“If we want to show people how the game should be officiated, show them that game,” Wilkin said.
“I’ve watched thousands of rugby league games, and I sometimes struggle to get really entertained by a game. But I’ve watched that and got goose bumps speaking about it.”
The international game is becoming more consistent
Before his appointment was made official, Klein explained how the sport was in the best place it had ever been.
“I think the beauty of the international game at the moment is we are probably as close as we’ve ever been to having a consistent approach between the two hemispheres,” he told SEN.
“When I first started there were a lot of rules that were totally different.
“The hardest bit has been the captain’s challenge for the northern hemisphere sides, whereas players in the NRL have played by that week-by-week.”
Klein made no secret of his desire to take charge of the final, although he refused to be drawn into which achievement he considered as the pinnacle of his year.
“When I first started training back in January it was all about refereeing the NRL grand final,” he said.
“Then obviously to be involved in this tournament- the goal is to referee the World Cup final. It’s really hard to pinpoint any of them and say one is above the other.”
Video refereeing is the toughest job in the game
When Klein takes to the field at Old Trafford, he will thankful he wasn’t tasked with sitting in the box and acting as the video ref.
“The video refereeing is the toughest gig in rugby league,” Klein declared.
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“Refereeing, you go out there and make decisions, but the beauty is once you do, you’re actually on to your next decision.
“When you’re the video ref, you don’t know when the decision is going to turn up, you’re involved with all the major points scored in the game and you’re dealing with foul play which is obviously major within the context of today’s game.
“You’ve got big decisions to make that have massive ramifications, so video refereeing is much tougher.”