Footy is back and for once the crowds are booing former stars who have transferred clubs over the off season and leaving us alone. What a welcome change!
Notice anything different about the new umpire’s uniform over the weekend? You would’ve had to look closely. On the right breast of each umpire the AFL has put onto each umpire’s shirt their heritage number. In a first for umpires, Thomas McCoy from the AFL Umpiring Department worked in collaboration with our historian, David Flegg to get the number included on each shirt. We are indeed pleased with the outcome.
Congratulations to our four new first gamers. Boundary umpires, Michael Baker (heritage number 569), Ben MacDonald (570) and Corey Watkins (571) who debuted in 3 different states. Nathan Williamson was the only field umpire to debut in Perth. Nathan was awarded heritage number 436.
Ben MacDonald was appointed to the Hawthorn v Essendon game at the MCG on Saturday night. When we spoke to Ben MacDonald his feet had still not touched the ground. “The noise and atmosphere was unbelievable. I’ve never heard anything like it! He exclaimed. “It was well worth the wait.” Ben had been in the VFL system for many years, from 2008 to be precise and has umpired 3 VFL grand finals. He umpired with his good mate Damien Cusack in Saturday nights match. Nathan Williamson said, “It was an amazing night (Fremantle v Geelong) and I was proud to umpire in front of family and friends who have supported me throughout my junior career.”
Following the pre-season discussion regarding the bounce most football followers were oblivious to the fact that the ball was thrown up in three matches on the weekend because the surface wasn’t good enough to bounce on. Turf in the middle of Etihad Stadium and Adelaide oval had to be relaid following Adel concerts which made bouncing very problematic. All umpires had practice bounces before the games, however the surface was such that it couldn’t provide a fair contest.
Injuries and illness have had an impact on selection of umpires right across Australia. Field umpire Mat Nicholls was appointed to two AFL matches over the weekend. Thursday’s season opener, Carlton v Richmond and the Sunday clash, Nth Melbourne v WCE. Mat was full of praise for his pre-season fitness program that got him up and able to officiate in both games with a 3 day break.
Boundary umpires, Ian Burrows (appendicitis) Adam Coote, Josh Mather and Mark Thomson (injury) were all unavailable as were field umpires Hayden Gavine, Troy Pannell, Brent Wallace, Brett Rosebury and Luke Farmer.
Can Shane McInerney be given some leeway for first game blooper on Saturday night? When the two captains came into the middle of the MCG for the coin toss, Shane greeted Jarryd Roughead saying, “Hello Jordan.” To any seasoned football follower that might be an inexcusable error. For Shane, a veteran of 442 AFL games he may have had a senior moment?
Pictured: Goal Umpire Mark Ensbey, with the new edition on the umpires shirts this year – their heritage number.