By 10.30pm (eastern standard time) on Saturday there will only be two teams left in the race for the ultimate prize and one team of umpires. The cutting of AFL officials is as ruthless as the exiting of a team from the grand final race. While the scoreboard is there for all to see the minute the final siren sounds which instantly tells the world who the teams will be, it will take the AFL Umpiring Department many hours of reviewing performances and weighing up a season of performances that will ensure only the best officials walk onto the ground on grand final day.
There are six field umpires left in the race, Rosebury (5 grand finals) McInerney (2) Meredith and Stevic (1) with Margetts and Nicholls yet to figure in a grand final. Each of the field umpires enter this weekend with over 200 games and multiple finals each in experience.
Of the eight boundary umpires remaining Burrows and Creasey (4 grand finals) Doig and Haala (1) leaves four potential debutants Marantelli, Morris, Saunders and Tomkins. Morris with 258 games leads the group in games umpired closely followed by Jonathan Creasey who umpires his 250th this weekend. Matthew Tomkins is the youngest of the group with 45 games experience.
Two of the remaining four goal umpires have grand finals to their name Walker (4) and Axon (2). Wojcik and Appleton have been consistent performers over many years but have yet to get a grand final berth. All of the goal umpires have more than 100 games experience and multiple finals to their names.
The only consideration that will come into calculation is current form. While previous grand final performances will give the selectors confidence that each of those umpires have “been there and done that” it will not be the determining factor. When making the final judgement it will be about exposed form in the 2013 finals, it will be about final rankings over the whole season. It will be about all of the skill sets required to be performed on grand final day.
In reality unless an individual makes a huge blunder in this weekends finals there will be very very little between each of the combatants. In some disciplines it can come down to a fraction of a point in scoring over the season. But that will be enough to give one official the nod over another. Like players, umpires have to earn their spots, they are not given away. Emotion plays no part in selection, it is purely and simply about the ability to do the job required on the biggest sporting stage in Australian sport.