Courtney_LaiIn an ironic way the latest injury to AFL goal umpire Courtney Lai may well have clarified his speciality in medicine.

Courtney has toyed with the idea of a career in medicine on and off since he was 10 years old when he underwent his first knee operation. It was just a few weeks ago when he again thought orthopaedics might be his calling.
Courtney is laid up on the couch at home as he recuperates from his reconstruction surgery. Surgeon David Young, an avid Bulldog supporter and close friend of National Umpires Manager, Jeff Gieschen, was in the crowd watching the game when he instinctively knew Courtney would need his assistance. A routine surgery for David that normally takes 90 minutes, took another hour, so damaged was Courtney’s knee.

Courtney, now off his pain medication, is getting back into a routine and while not yet back at work and waiting for his new knee brace to be made, he has plenty of time for reading and reflection. Courtney was a student at Mentone Grammar. He was a footy and cricket player. He described himself at 15 as a ‘nuggety back pocket player’. “I had to choose a winter sport but after shoulder problems was told not to play any more footy, the footy team needed a goal umpire so I took up the challenge.” Courtney enjoyed the role so much that he went down to the Southern Football League and signed up.
AFL 2012 Rd 15 - Melbourne v Richmond

Courtney was promoted to the VFL as a 20 year old under the tutelage of Andrew Sinclair.

He joined a distinct class of now AFL listed goal umpires including Steve Williams and Michael Palm. He featured in two TAC Cup grand finals and two senior VFL grand finals before becoming a listed AFL umpire in 2011.
As a professional person, as are many of the currently listed umpires, Courtney has to make many sacrifices and must be able to balance his work and football commitments. He completed his medical studies in 2010 and wanted a spot on the AFL list but he was always realistic and was prepared to live with a missed opportunity and was prepared to give footy away to return to his studies. Courtney works in the Eastern Health network as a doctor of medicine and may well look to further his studies by undertaking a PhD.

What is the most challenging aspect of your role? “I was rotated to Bairnsdale Hospital as part of my work with
eastern health, there were nights when I was the only doctor working in the hospital. That builds character and by assisting others it makes all of the sacrifices and study very worthwhile,” reflected Courtney.

Supported by his mum and girlfriend Courtney is ready for the next challenge. We look forward to seeing you back on your feet and working hard with your rehabilitation as you look forward to 2014.

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