When anyone spends any length of time out of the game they love and are so passionate about because they are injured they can become dispirited and disillusioned. The game they have worked so hard to be a part of can seem so far away. Negative thoughts about am I good enough, can I overcome this injury invade your everyday life, whereas when you are upbeat and getting selected each week these thoughts never enter your head.
Chambo, lived in that vortex for 18 months over a 24 month period when he was seriously injured. The one thing those insiders know about him and the footballing public take for granted is that only his single-minded determination to rehabilitate and then resurrect his career, would see him come out the other end.
Chambo celebrated his 200th game on Friday night in the Collingwood v. Hawthorn game at the MCG. It was a place befitting the milestone. He is feeling very fit given it is his first full season since 2011. When we caught up early this week to reflect on what lessons he had learned through those 200 games the responses were succinct and powerful.
“When you have so much time out of the game injured you have time to gain some clarity about what the footy world wants from an umpire. Every week we are challenged, questioned and undermined by people around the game. As a result, environmentally we feel we have to be right all the time.” Umpiring can develop a siege mentality. Chambo goes on to say that the game doesn’t care who pays the free kick and neither should we. “If we can work together on the field and collectively get it right then we will improve the outcomes for everyone involved in the game.”
The AFL hosted a Grand Final umpires luncheon last Sunday where there were lots of stories told by older retired grand final umpires about their time in umpiring. “I think we can lose sight of the fun times in footy and what we do. Coaching, assessment and feedback in umpiring has historically been pretty negative, it is easy to lose sight of the fun, the positives and areas where improvement has been achieved. It is just good to go to training and to games and enjoy the footy and hanging out and working hard with your mates. When you have achieved 200 games you know that you are closer to the end than the beginning. It’s probably worthwhile identifying what you actually enjoy about the caper.”
A young family certainly brings a sense of reality to any situation. His daughter doesn’t care whether he bounces at 60 or 100%. “The real world moves on really quickly and we should too.”
But all this is delivered with a real edge of responsibility to the game that Chambo feels. It is not negotiable for him. “I will always prepare thoroughly whether it is ice baths, rehab weights programs, massage, skill drills, my match reviews or taking on board coaches feedback to get better. I will do whatever it takes to be the best I can be. I will be completely honest with myself. The knowledge of this assists me greatly in dealing with the anxiety around match day. If I fall short, it won’t have been through lack of effort. There is a level of comfort in that.”
On the weekend when Chambo puts the ball on the ground and wipes the perspiration off his hands onto the ground so he can get a good grip of the ball you should know that he is doing everything he can to get the ball straight up to make for an even contest and a great game of Australian football.