Week after week for 21 years, Mark Thommo Thomson has trained and prepared his body to umpire AFL Football. Since his first appointment back in 1996 to Adelaide Vs Sydney, Thommo has umpired in 28 Finals, 5 Grand finals (including the 2010 replay), and a substantial amount of Adelaide showdowns. This Friday night, Thommo reaches game number 350. Thommo sits in second place on the all-time boundary umpires list, streets ahead of the other 570 boundary umpires without a hint of slowing down. He only sits behind fellow Adelaide champion Darren Wilson. When Thommo walks out onto Adelaide Oval this Friday night, he will also be regarded by his peers as a champion of our game.
350 games is a milestone that doesn’t come easily. Not without plenty of dedication, sacrifice, preparation, injury and rehabilitation. Thommo tells me of his most memorable method of healing an injury to get up for a game. “It involved being whacked with a bamboo stick, which left me black and blue and hurt like hell.” Good news was, this somehow worked and Thommo umpired that weekend. Extrodinary! Aside from the crazy bamboo stick methods, Thommo has tailored his training regimes over the years to ensure he gets the most out of his body. There are no superstitions in Thommo’s game, however there has been a bit of fanfare of late. A rumour that the Adelaide oval Pocket will be named the Betts-Thompson pocket this weekend after Eddie Betts kicked goal of the year last year and Thommo let the ball play. A correct decision that attracted plenty of media, including an article from the Age newspaper. I don’t think we have any objections to the renaming!
Over the last 21 years, the game of AFL and boundary umpiring has significantly changed. Thommo recalls his first AFL match with the 3 boundary umpire system and only having to run the second and third quarters. We then moved through the 4 boundary umpire system, the pace of the game, the change in tactics, numerous national coaches and changes in personal. Thommo took on all these challenges and came out on top every time. He said that “as with any change, it provides an opportunity to adapt and improve your own performance’. This type of mentality has helped Thommo achieve the greatness over the period of time, Including some of his best memories. The 2010 drawn Grand Final. “I remember it well, such an unbelievable finish when a premiership was up for grabs”, and, “the 1st Adelaide showdown which was only my 7th game of football. I was running down the wing, the atmosphere was awesome, like running on air. I actually was then tripped up by a channel 7 camera cord, fair to say I got a closer look at the Football Park turf than I wanted’. This successful journey also requires commitment and sacrifice. Things Thommo says are easy to adhere to when you love what you do. It also requires a great family which Thommo acknowledges. The support of his mum and dad, and his wife Paula and 2 children Issy and Lucas.
When reflecting on the 350 milestone, it is something he hasn’t given too much thought to. “I still approach every game as an opportunity to improve and do my best. Umpiring AFL is such a challenge and I still love walking out onto the ground knowing I have 2 tough hours ahead of me.” Thommo’s 10 year old daughter Issy is extremely excited for the occasion as she is now aware of the time and effort put in. “Both children have enjoyed watching the games and spending time with friends we have met along the journey.” Thommo wants to be remembered for giving 100% and someone who got the most out of their ability. “Ive never been the best runner or had the best throw, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a great umpire.”
Thommo you are certainly well known for those qualities as well as a terrific bloke who can sit down, have a beer, have a laugh and a really good time. You are a fantastic family man, and a man that is extremely respected and loved by all your peers. Congratulations on such a terrific milestone. We hope there is more to come from number 458.
Written by Chris Gordon – AFLUA Marketing & Communications Intern/ Colleague/ Friend