Brett Rosebury will become the first West Australian born umpire to reach 300 AFL games this coming weekend in the North Melbourne v. Geelong match on Saturday. Brett becomes the 18th field umpire in VFL/AFL history to reach the milestone. It is a milestone that only the very best achieve. In fact only two of the 18 to achieve the mark have not umpired a VFL/AFL grand final. He is the youngest man to debut as an AFL field umpire, aged 20, in the game’s history.
Brett was promoted onto the AFL list in 2000 following two grand finals in the WAFL as an 18 and 19 year old. When asked why he started umpiring Brett was very clear, “I was a streetwise kid from Armadale, as a junior player I always abused umpires and thought I could do a better job, so I got involved.” History will say he certainly proved those umpires right!
As a young man Brett decided to move to Victoria to hone his craft and moved in with AFL umpire Mark McKenzie, “all the best umpires and coaches were here, it was a no-brainer.” He arrived as a shy youth with a passion for footy and umpiring. “I was very lucky I debuted in an era littered by great umpires who mentored me. Guys like Sheehan, Goldspink, Allen, McKenzie and McBurney, they all gave me their time and advice.”
McKenzie reflected recently that it wasn’t all plain sailing for Brett in those early days. “Brett came home from Sydney one weekend, threw his bags down the corridor and exclaimed, my career is over! I sat him down and Brett explained that he had bounced two balls into the crowd on the full. I had never heard of that before, nor had AFL Umpire Coach, Rowan Sawers, who dropped Brett for poor bouncing!
In those early days his WA coach, David Johnson saw great promise in him and so did Sawers and AFL Umpires’ Manager, Jeff Gieschen. “I was just a young kid from Perth and they took a real punt. I did an Ansett Cup match and made the panel.” Brett acknowledged the early setbacks with injury and fitness now go unseen. All camouflaged by six grand finals – back to back. “It took me ten years to reach my potential if that means doing a grand final. I did two preliminary finals before my first, it was a very gradual process.”
Another incident that Brett would prefer to forget was the brawl between Richmond and Footscray in 2001. Liberatore and Knights clashed off the ball. Fourteen players had to front the tribunal. Brett umpired that game with another current umpire, Shane McInerney. In the wash up Liberatore was suspended for five weeks and Brett was well and truly learning his craft the hard way because he was sent back to the WAFL for the next six weeks.
Of the current group of umpires only Shane McInerney (396 games) and Stuart Wenn (337 games) have umpired more games than Brett.
In the modern era only Ian Robinson (9 grand finals) and Brett Allen (7 grand finals) have umpired more than Brett who shares third place with Bryan Sheehan and Darren Goldspink with 6 grand finals each. Brett also has umpired 30 finals, one final in every 10 games on average.
Brett holds the third longest streak of home and away games ever umpired. He has 115 games in a row between round 14 2006 – round 18 2011. Only Brett Allen (116 games) and Scott McLaren (177 games) have better streaks.
Add three NAB Cup grand finals in 2008, 2010 and 2011 to his International Rules appearance in 2010 and we get a picture of a focused man who is driven to be successful. “To be appointed to a grand final is the ultimate reward for all of the hard work that you do,” reflected Brett today. “It is a personal challenge to get the job done.” He has been named as the All-Australian field umpire in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
Brett is a committed team man and great supporter of all umpires. From a quiet and shy youth to leadership group, Brett blossomed as part of this group under the auspices of Ray McLean from Leading Teams. Brett was one of the umpires who drove the open and honest communication among the group – right time, right place, right conversation. “Ray facilitated the discussion, Ryano, Stevic, along with myself and some others drove the discussion. Umpiring had to stand for something. It had to have good people umpiring with integrity, after all what does an umpire have if he doesn’t have integrity?”
“Our group developed its core values and drove a new culture of team rather than individual. It wasn’t about who paid the free kick, it was about the free being paid that was the best result for the game. The culture became supportive and promoted improved on-field performance.
Luke Farmer said it best when Brett received the applause of the group for his upcoming milestone, “you couldn’t wish to meet a more humble, yet defined and focused individual than Brett Rosebury.”