Veteran goal umpire, Jason Venkataya waved his flags for the 211th time in an AFL game on Friday night and bowed out of football. In a great show of support for Jason all of the officiating umpires waited in the centre of the MCG for Jason to finish his duty of checking the score with fellow goal umpire, Chris Appleton and then left the arena together with Jason leading the group off the field.
Jason announced his retirement prior to training on Thursday night citing work and family commitments that were taking up his time and that it was time to give back to them. Jason umpired his first AFL game in 2000. His total of 211 games included 8 finals. Jason has been a model of consistency finishing in the top 12 goal umpires in nine of the past ten seasons.
Adelaide based goal umpire, Matthew Norton also announced his retirement after a five year career and 47 AFL matches. Matthew is looking to the next phase of his life post football although he did tell us that you will see him bob up in SANFL games next year. “A boy from Port Pierre made the AFL and I am damn proud of that.” (See his interview with us later in the week)
Injuries continue to take their toll on the field umpire list with Chris Donlon out for the season with adductor and hip related problems. Shane McInerney, who missed this weekends round of matches hopes to be fit for round 23. He has also injured an adductor.
Boundary umpire John Morris moved to 8th all time games list when he overtook Mathew Vitiritti last weekend and now has 302 games to his credit. Mark Thomson will be hoping to be back from injury after missing the last three weeks with a hip injury also. Mark has umpired the last two AFL grand finals and will be looking for a recall in round 23 if he is to embark on another finals campaign in 2015. Callum Brown returned to boundary umpiring in WA after rolling his ankle three weeks ago in a WCE game. Callum has had a big year and hopes that he can figure in this years finals calculations. Two other boundary umpires, Chris Roberts and Robert Taylor succumbed to season ending foot fractures some months ago. Who said it was easy to be a boundary umpire?
NSW/ACT boundary umpire, Michael Saunders has become that cities games record holder when he passed the previous record holder, Luke Roberts last weekend. Michael now has 143 AFL games to his credit.
The AFL has been trialing the four field umpire system for the past four weeks in games that do not have a likely finals team participating. Round 22 saw two matches used in the trial with the same expectation in round 23. I wonder how many spectators and indeed media commentators know of the trial. Nothing has been heard in these circles regarding the opportunity to gather data about how the system can improve free kick outcomes. When the trial is completed there will be data from seven matches and more than 10 preseason games to make some informed decisions about whether to introduce it in 2016.