“Jack” as he is affectionally known by his mates, stood proud today as the AFL recognised the feat of one of its best officials as he reaches 400 AFL games this Saturday. He then announced that he was hanging up his whistle at the end of the season.
Jack is only the third umpire in VFL/AFL history to achieve the milestone. Hayden Kennedy (495 games) and Rowan Sawers (410 games), both current AFL coaches, are the other two.
Jack’s record speaks for itself, 18 years, 30 finals, 4 grand finals, 3 international rules series and 1 State of Origin match in 1998. Add to that two AFL All-Australian medals and Jack certainly stands alone as one of the sports leading officials.
Jack has been much more than just an AFL umpire in the eyes of his peers over those years. They voted him the Bishop Shield award winner for his participation in association affairs and as the best field umpire in 2002, 2003 and 2007. He was awarded life membership of the association in 2001 and a lifetime achievement award for outstanding service to the AFLUA in 2010.
Jack is confidant and mentor to many past and present umpires. He has a very personable disposition, his infectious smile and warm greeting, “Hi Howey, how are you?”, extends to everyone he meets. You are immediately drawn to him because of his warmth. There is no ego evident, he understands his place in the game.
What you do get from Jack is a thorough understanding of what is required to make the grade and an unwavering focus and determination to be the best he could possibly be. Even now if you ask him what his goal for 2013 is, he will simply say, the grand final is not out of the question.
Seventy-six days straight and shedding another 2kgs during pre-season training in readiness for season 2013 saw him easily meet the 5km benchmark. Always the last umpire on the track after training practicing his bouncing until it was bullet proof, even putting a dry ball into a bucket of water to simulate wet weather conditions.
Jack is always the “go to” man in coaching sessions or the man with a view on a difficult interpretation because he has that innate ability to put it into such simple, logical terms that everyone can understand.
It has taken Jack 6,713 days to reach his 400 game milestone. He has never had a massage, taken a supplement or been late to training in that time. He saw the inside of the physiotherapist room on the eve of round one this year when he tore a hamstring – the first injury he had in his career. He didn’t like it. He hasn’t been back.
Jack, you are our rock. Enjoy the accolades that today’s announcement brings. See you on Saturday at the “G.”