Talking to newly listed Dan Field-Read today brought back many memories of the last man I knew to change umpiring disciplines at State League level. Evergreen, AFLUA life member, 256 AFL games and 3 time grand final boundary umpire, Allan Cook started his career in Melbourne as a VFL listed field umpire before being talked into a career change and made his AFL debut in 1991 as a boundary umpire.
Dan, started his career as a young field umpire while still playing under age footy when his family moved from Queensland to Sydney when Dan was ten. He had played rugby union in Queensland but didn’t enjoy the same experiences in Sydney. He took up umpiring like most young teenagers, “to earn some extra pocket money on weekends,” reflected Dan today. “I would umpire in the morning and play in the afternoon, hoping most of the games were at the same venue so I didn’t have to travel. It worked out that way most of the time.” Dan was challenged by umpiring games where the players were as old as he was. “I decided that when my playing and umpiring times began clashing that I was more suited to umpiring. I had been added to the development pathway and exposed to representative footy at a state level. I didn’t have great kicking skills on my non-preferred,” he exclaimed with a laugh.
Dan umpired Premier League Sydney football as a seventeen year old field umpire but being the youngest in the group was challenging and he opted for a 12 month sabbatical, heading to Europe for four months after completing his HSC. “I was bitten by the footy bug and couldn’t stay away. I was back in pre-season 2011 trying to get fit when current AFL boundary umpire Michael Saunders tapped me on the shoulder and said, you can run, why don’t you consider boundary umpiring?”
“The question I asked myself was what do I want out of my AFL involvement? It re-affirmed the same response I had when I was fifteen. I want to umpire at AFL level.”
Three NEAFL grand finals, an AFL NAB Challenge practice match on the Gold Coast last year, a focus and willingness to train harder, run faster and hurt for longer brought Dan to the attention of AFL coach Hayden Kennedy who rang and offered Dan his first contract. “I was overwhelmed and a touch relieved. I was given an opportunity in 2014 to get a taste and the hard work has paid off. Now I just want some NAB Cup games to get familiar with the hurt I will experience in AFL games.”
In the umpiring change rooms, Michael Saunders, Rob Taylor and Liam Rowe are the three guys Dan feeds off. “I ask questions constantly and bounce ideas off them all the time.” You can hear the passion and energy in Dan’s voice. Away from footy his mother, Claire and uncle Tony made the sacrifices and influenced Dan’s choices. “My mother gave up an enormous amount and my uncle who is 10 years older and is more like my older brother, he taught me about all sports,” reflected Dan.
Away from footy, Dan is completing his Political Science degree at the University of Sydney. He works part time at two Sydney schools, running an after school care sport program and coaching AFL at the International Grammar School. So how does all that fit in to the young 21 year old’s life? “It all fits perfectly actually.”
Pictured: Dan Field-Read