Having being told not to continue playing football at Mentone Grammar due to continuing shoulder problems, Courtney Lai turned his mind to waving the white flags and enjoyed it so much, that after a stint at the Southern Football League, he was promoted to the VFL and in the space of four years officiated in 2 TAC and 2 VFL grand finals.  This last weekend, Courtney officiated his 50th AFL game at the MCG between Collingwood and Gold Coast.

In 2011, he made an immediate impression after officiating his first AFL game in Round 7 by winning the prestigious Brian Pratt medal in 2011 and following it up again in 2012.  In 2013, whilst officiating a game at Etihad Stadium, Courtney was injured following a collision with Liam Picken in round 2.  Following a knee reconstruction, Courtney began the long process of recovery and rehabilitation.

Any injury requiring major rehabilitation is testing, but even more so, as Courtney admits, for a doctor. “Rehabilitation was a testing time and being a doctor you know more about the human body, but sometimes you think you know too much and don’t follow the advice of other experts. Therefore there was a tendency to try and rush things, which is completely understandable when you want to get back out and umpire.” If anything, the injury had taught Courtney patience and made him even hungrier for continued success

Courtney’s love for umpiring is based on the friendships and excitement, “It’s a great adrenaline rush, however, l appreciate how much responsibility we carry into each game, even with the 3rd scorer in place.”  He also loves the competitive nature of the group and how everyone aspires to improve on-field performance.

Courtney has now turned his attention to completing his PhD, his thesis on sports injuries to AFL players with a particular focus on anterior cruciate ligament injuries and hamstring tendon injuries.  This has enabled Courtney to better manage his work life balance and to concentrate on his umpiring career.  

Courtney’s 24th game was his first game back after injury, a major milestone that took patience and perseverance. He cites this as one of his major achievements and highlights after 16 months recovering.

Congratulations Courtney on your well deserved 50th AFL game.

Article written by: AFLUA Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Peter Kelly

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