Umpiring an AFL Grand Final is every umpires’ dream, doing six places you in a league of your own! Luke Walker, who will umpire his 250th AFL game this weekend, is ranked third in the all-time list of goal umpires appearing in grand finals.
In addition to six grand finals, Luke Walker has umpired in 33 finals, the highest of any goal umpire. He has also umpired two night grand finals and has been the recipient of the Leigh Keen Shield in 2011, 2013 and 2014 (tied with Chris Appleton).
A recent new dad with the arrival of second child Mason 9 weeks ago, Luke balances life with work, family responsibilities and umpiring. Luke is also a successful cricket player and has pursued his cricketing ambitions with Frankston Peninsula in the Victorian Premier Cricket competition. Luke believes there are more similarities with cricket and goal umpiring than some realise, with the element of surprise and dealing with that surprise and devising a plan to combat that surprise being the most common. He added, “I’m very fortunate that l have been able to play with and against numerous Test and First Class cricketers over the journey and it’s a huge thrill to pit your skills up against their skills.”
Having been around for so long has meant Luke has benefitted from many significant coaching influences during his career. What does get lost at times, Luke believes, “is the influence your fellow umpires have on you and your performance.” He added, “When l first joined the AFL list, l was very lucky to have some very successful AFL Goal Umpires as my colleagues to look up to and learn some traits from.”
Luke believes his longevity in umpiring is based on his theory of ‘not getting stuck on the tracks’ and to try and keep moving and evolving with the times. As quickly as the game changes, so does umpiring. Luke added, “Whether that be the introduction of score reviews, new coaching instructions or increased emphasis on fitness, l’ve done my best to keep up and get ahead where possible.”
Luke’s build-up to the game has been pretty normal, his sights set on a dreaded beep test (mid-season fitness test) at training this week, before his attention focuses on the game ahead on Saturday night.
Luke doesn’t seek publicity and goes about his umpiring in a quiet and professional manner. However, he was cast into the spotlight at a recent game in Alice Springs. He also featured in Rohan Connolly’s ‘Last Word Column’ under the ‘Courage’ section – “Hats off to goal umpire Luke Walker on Saturday in Alice Springs for courage under fire. Walker copped one square in the face just two minutes into the Melbourne v Gold Coast game when the Suns’ Sean Lemmens ran into an open goal. Walker was able to regain his feet, and his composure, to give the all clear and wave the flags, despite blood flowing from a nasty cut to the bridge of the nose before he was eventually subbed out, and replaced by Dylan Benwell. Which does raise an interesting question. Does any substitute in sport stand less change of actually being called into action than an emergency goal umpire? Proof you can never completely count on a quiet day sitting on the bench.” A nice tribute to a deserving umpire!
One can only assume Luke was somewhat concussed when he was seen a few days later alongside Chris Appleton and friends, drinking a beer, fully decked out in Queensland colours for the first State-of-Origin game. Even Luke admits ‘maybe he was still concussed….it was a poor choice l made….hanging out with Apples.” A joke for sure, as Chris Appleton is one of his best mates.
Well done Luke on a fantastic milestone as part of your outstanding career to date. Have a great game on Saturday night!
Article written by: AFLUA Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Peter Kelly