A well-known quote ‘You get what you work for, not what you wish for’ is a great way to introduce newly promoted AFL boundary umpire Ryan Kukura who was awarded Heritage Number 567 when he umpired his first AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and Richmond on 15 April 2016.
Ryan readily admits that whilst he had his sights set on the AFL earlier in his umpiring career, in recent years he’d been more focused on reaching 300 games with the WAFL. So it’s not surprising that when he got a call from AFL National Boundary Umpire Coach Simon Leigh, he puts that down as his biggest career highlight, closely followed by his first AFL match. He also cites his first WAFL grand final in 2005 as one of his most memorable experiences.
Ryan joined the WAFL in 2001 and has umpired 273 WAFL matches, 4 state matches and 7 WAFL grand finals.
Ryan acknowledges the support and encouragement he received from Mike Pampacos, who in 2001, helped him improve his standard of running when he first started in the WAFL. He also acknowledged the other WAFL coaches who have provided support and advice at various stages of his umpiring career, particularly the guidance and coaching given by Geoff O’Neill who has been a fixture of WAFL and AFL boundary umpiring for almost all of his career.
Working alongside his wife Samantha, Ryan is the Director of Edge Fitness and the Edge Fitness Cheerleading Academy, which keeps both of them busy and fit.
Once notified of his appointment, the week will be one he will remember for a long time.
“It was a pretty full on few days, however it settled down as the game got closer. I was less nervous as the week went by”. On the day of the match, Ryan approached the game as simply ‘another game’.
Ryan has welcomed the level of professionalism at AFL level. “The amount of support is amazing. I was observed by Simon Leigh in my first game. The feedback is very comprehensive with supporting video clips which really provide you with an in-depth view of your performance, which is great if you want to keep improving.”
He knows he has to work hard to maintain his position on the list, “You have to work hard, be honest with yourself and be keen to learn and seek feedback. To simply maintain form on the AFL list is not good enough, you have to continue improving, just as your colleagues do, otherwise you will be left behind.”
Ryan is motivated by his love for the game and the friendships he has made along the way. He also likes the physical fitness side of boundary umpiring, “The physical side of an AFL game is a bit different to the local league. With a four umpire system, you get a few more stoppages but you have to be prepared to move really quickly as players move the ball with amazing speed.”
Ryan is looking forward to the season ahead. His goal of doing 300 WAFL games is now on hold as he pursuits his AFL career. “I would love to do 300 game with the WAFL, but now l’m focused on this amazing opportunity of umpiring at AFL level.”
Article written by: AFLUA Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Peter Kelly