In round 3 on Saturday the 10th of April 2004, North Melbourne won by 5 points against Carlton at the MCG in front of 36,273 fans. This was also the day Simon Meredith made his AFL debut and was awarded heritage number 398. Simon will walk out onto the MCG this Saturday afternoon, 14 years since that debut for his 300th AFL match. He becomes only the 22nd field umpire to achieve this feat. Within the 299 matches, Simon has umpired 24 finals, 4 Grand Finals and was awarded AFL life membership earlier this year. An extraordinary career to date.
I caught up with the man we call Medda during the week in preparation for his 300th AFL match. Medda started umpiring whilst he was still playing junior football down in the Southern suburbs of Melbourne. Once junior football finished up, he continued to umpire on both days of the weekend when a pathway opportunity to rise up the ranks to the AFL became more achievable. Medda took this opportunity, worked hard, and forged the start of a successful career.
From Medda’s first AFL match in 2004 until today, the game of AFL has drastically changed. The rules, the interpretations, the speed and the positioning. Medda tells me that understanding your place in the game and being a coachable person has helped him evolve with the game. Simon says, “Whatever the coaches tell us to do”. To adapt through these changes and be as successful as Simon has is a credit to his craft.
Over the 299 career games, Medda said that being part of an elite environment and the mateship that he has formed over time has been the most enjoyable time. He also didn’t forget the amount of gear he has received over 14 years! The 2012 Grand Final was Medda’s first, and certainly a career highlight for the fact that it was one of the fiercest contests he has ever umpired. He also named the 2011 Preliminary between Collingwood and Hawthorn, and the 2016 Preliminary between GWS and Western Bulldogs as memorable clashes in his career.
To be successful and have longevity in such a demanding environment it is important to have some significant people in your life to ride the ups and downs and provide support along the way. Medda mentioned his parents who drove him to training and all his games as a junior, and his wife Leiza for her huge ongoing support during his AFL career. “I certainly wouldn’t have made it anywhere without her support”. Within the umpiring fraternity, Medda spoke about Shane Harris, Kevin Mitchell and Peter Howe, who all gave him the skills and opportunity to reach the AFL. He also thanked Rowan Sawyers and the current coaches who continued to not only make him better, but the whole list.
Outside of the AFL bubble, Medda spends some time at the local bayside yoga studio where he tells me a 6am yoga session is the perfect way to start the day. “It clears the mind to have an hour without distraction and mobile phones”. In a time where the game is faster and harder to interpret, it is this type of preparation that helps Medda be at his best.
Simon, you are a true champion of umpiring and we honour your career to date. Good luck for game number 300.
Written by Chris Gordon, AFLUA Intern