085494-scott-mclaren[1]On Sunday 22 June 1998 Fremantle defeated Carlton 10.16.76 to 10.8.68. Stephen O’Reilly, Chris Bond and Glenn Manton played well, Docker captain, Peter Mann who kicked a team lifting goal from a tight angle but, at the time, it was an unremarkable match. 103 home and away rounds later, it took on a special significance for one of the participants. For field umpire Scott McLaren (left) it was the first game in a record breaking 177 consecutive game streak. McLaren, Brett Allen, Brett Rosebury, Ray Chamberlain, Stephen McBurney and Jack Elder are the only umpires to ever officiate in more than 100 consecutive home and away matches and only 11 other umpires have compiled more than 60 matches in a row at the highest level.

Football has changed much since Elder’s time. Field umpires no longer have to run the ball back to the middle after goals and now there are three of them to administer a game which is rarely mired in mud. Football today moves at a tempo undreamed of prior to the Great War.

Since the beginning of the VFL, form, injuries and selection policy have contributed to umpires’ inability to stretch sequences to substantial lengths. Field umpires have had the greatest opportunities for long runs without a break. At some stage, usually at the height of their careers, the league’s best have managed to show form so good that did not warrant a visit to the country for a long time. In most cases they were also very successful during the finals series of the same period.

Elder’s consecutive run is more remarkable than most. The first match was Geelong v. St.Kilda at Corio Oval on 5 June 1909. Elder was appointed for the next 102 home and away rounds which was remarkable enough but there was more. During this sequence Elder also umpired every final played (19), two matches in the split rounds 9 and 15 1909 and two matches in split round 15 1910. A total of 124 matches in 121 consecutive weeks of league football! He is also the only umpire to have continued a long sequence by umpiring in a different category. The third game of the record sequence (R8 1909) was umpired on the boundary. As a result, the record for a single category was 99 matches as a field umpire until surpassed by McLaren.

Quite different in terms of finals success was Bob Nunn’s string of matches from round 16 1957 to round 8 1962. Nunn officiated in his only finals appointment, the 1962 Second Semi-final, well afterwards. He had been unable to break into the finals panel ahead of such luminaries as Allan Nash, Bill Barbour, Frank Schwab and Jack Irving.

Until very recent seasons, VFL/AFL boundary and goal umpires have never had the opportunity to compile more than five or six games in a row.

Selection policy between 1897 and 2000 shared matches between the members of the respective lists. During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s the roster was formalised to such an extent that umpires knew that they would be umpiring three weeks in four, with the last week having no football commitments.

In season 2001 the AFL issued a directive that boundary and goal umpires be appointed on the basis their assessment rankings only. Effectively, it meant that the highest ranked umpires had the chance to umpire every week for the first time in VFL/AFL history. This was particularly the case in Victoria where, with the larger list and more matches the directive was more closely followed.
Prior to this directive though, boundary umpire Chris Macdonald did manage a 31 match run from 1995 to 1997 that included five separate rounds in which he umpired two matches – an unprecedented achievement.

Boundary umpire streaks from 2008-2011 have coincided with the introduction of the four-boundary umpire system and led to the three longest streaks being accumulated by John Morris (65), Gerard Large (64) and Mark Foster (62). Another remarkable achievement was Chris Gordon’s run of 59 which were the first 59 matches of his career.

Goal umpire Craig Clark added yet another laurel to his career. No other goal umpire has managed to umpire more than 50 consecutive AFL matches. Clark’s run ended after 54. David Dixon just missed reaching fifty when he was named to the bench after 49 consecutive AFL matches.

The final words about Scott McLaren’s achievement can be left to AFL Director of Umpiring, Jeff Geischen as he congratulated him on behalf of the AFL, “This achievement by Scott is an excellent reward for the commitment he has to umpiring. Scott’s preparation is second to none and it is this professional approach which has enabled him to umpire to a consistently high level over a long period of time.”

30+ streaks completed

UmpireStreak matchesBeganEnded
Scott McLaren177R13 1998R13 2006
Brett Allen116R4 2000R9 2005
Brett Rosebury115R14 2006R18 2011
Stephen McBurney105R19 2006R13 2011
Ray Chamberlain104R16 2006R9 2011
Jack Elder102R6 1909R17 1914
Simon Meredith86R22 2007R19 2011
Bob Nunn83R16 1957R8 1962
Matt Stevic83R18 2007R12 2011
Gavin Dore74R3 1998R10 2001
Allan Nash71R16 1955R14 1959
Shane McInerney70R 11 2003R14 2006
Hayden Kennedy66R8 1996R7 1999
John Morris (B)65R20 2008R18 2011
Matt Stevic65R14 2011R8 2014
Gerard Large (B)64R21 2008R18 2011
Gordon Batt63R7 1936R15 1940
Mark Foster (B)62R21 2008R16 2011
Jack McMurray Jr60R11 1947R13 1950
Matthew Vitiritti (B)60R21 2000R14 2003
Sam Leslie (B)60R21 2000R14 2003
Chris Gordon (B)59R1 2009R15 2011
Adam McDonald (B)59R20 2000R12 2003
Simon Meredith58R21 2011R8 2014
Jack Elder56R5 1919R6 1922
Darren Goldspink56R4 2003R15 2005
Rob Findlay56R12 2015R21 2017
Frank Spokes55R5 1943R5 1946
Shaun Ryan54R18 2006R5 2009
Hayden Kennedy54R21 2002R8 2005
Craig Clark (G)54R17 2000R4 2003
Mark Nash54R2 1995R7 1998
Peter Cameron54R17 1983R4 1986
Shane McInerney53R17 2006R3 2009
Adam Coote (B)53R18 2008R4 2011
Darren Goldspink52R11 1997R18 1999
Neville Nash51R20 1981R4 1984
Rowan Sawers51R10 1984R16 1986
Stephen McBurney50R12 2004R17 2006
Andrew Coates50R1 1997R6 1999
David Dixon (G)49R21 2000R3 2003
Ray Sleeth49R17 1966R9 1969
Scott Hutton (B)49R12 2001R16 2003
Shaun Ryan49R7 2009R11 2011
Mathew Nicholls49R5 2012R7 2014
Jack McMurray Sr48R9 1925R3 1928
Chris Mitchell47R9 1999R11 2001
Ian Robinson47R1 1975R13 1977
John Harvey46R4 1997R5 2001
Jeff Crouch43R8 1963R14 1965
Martin Ellis43R8 2001R6 2003
Mark Thomson41R16 2008R12 2010
Michael Vozzo41R1 2005R19 2006
Bill Deller41R16 1977R12 1979
Ian Robinson41R12 1982R9 1984
Rob Haala (B)41R17 2009R13 2011
Jack Hawkins40R13 1938R4 1941
Bob Scott39R16 1933R18 1935
Hayden Kennedy39R8 2000R2 2002
Stephen McBurney39R16 2002R10 2004
David Howlett38R4 1997R19 1998
Frank Schwab38R12 1958R13 1960
Kevin Smith38R18 1975R11 1977
Kevin Smith37R11 1983R3 1985
Peter Carey37R13 1988R5 1990
Scott McLaren36R15 2008R6 2010
Frank Schwab36R15 1960R14 1962
Harvey Jamieson36R2 1950R1 1952
Jack Hawkins36R6 1941R7 1943
Jamie Giles36R22 2001R13 2003
John Sutcliffe36R20 1977R11 1979
Kevin Smith36R13 1977R4 1979
Peter Carey36R15 1986R6 1988
Chris Donlon36R9 2010R22 2011
Arthur Norden35R12 1917R17 1919
Bryan Sheehan35R20 1988R10 1990
Geoff Morrow35R5 1984R17 1985
Mark McKenzie35R16 2000R6 2002
Darren Goldspink34R20 1995R9 1997
Peter Carey34R11 1988R22 1999
Gordon Muir (B)33R15 2001R3 2003
Michael Dye33R22 1975R10 1977
Reg Sawyer33R13 1944R7 1946
Rowan Sawers33R20 1981R8 1983
Stan Fisher33R10 1964R6 1966
Michael Vozzo33R21 2006R9 2008
Stuart Wenn33R9 2009R19 2010
Corin Rowe32R13 2003R22 2004
Bill Barbour32R11 1950R6 1952
Chris Macdonald (B)32R19 2000R6 2002
Gavin Dore32R19 1995R6 1997
Michael Vozzo32R12 2003R21 2004
Chris Donlon32R11 2008R20 2009
Scott McLaren31R5 2007R13 2008
Derek Woodcock31R21 2003R7 2005
Mathew James31R14 2003R22 2004
Allan Cook (B)31R19 2000R5 2002
Bill Barbour31R14 1957R8 1959
Chris Macdonald (B)31R19 1995R5 1997
Doug Gourlay (G)31R19 2000R5 2002
J.D. Murphy31R13 1936R7 1938
Neville Nash31R1 1976R9 1977
Arthur Norden30R3 1912R4 1913
Frank Spokes30R9 1947R19 1948
Glenn Sinclair30R22 2001R7 2003
Gordon Batt30R11 1931R4 1933
Ivo Crapp30R13 1903R14 1905