Elite sportsmen and women are driven by many factors. They are all high achievers hungry for sustained success, to prove that their first victory or moment was not a fluke.  Some like David Dixon are also driven by a fear of failure.

David will become the seventh goal umpire in the games history, at the elite level to reach 300 games when he walks onto the MCG this Sunday to officiate in the Hawthorn v. Richmond match.  “I have been thinking about it since the end of last season because it was only six games away, but my focus was just about getting through each week.  It was only when I ran off the ground last Sunday after the Western Bulldogs v. Carlton match that I started to get excited about the coming week,” said David when we caught up yesterday.

“It has taken 16 seasons at AFL level and 30 years of total involvement in footy to reach this moment in time.  I wonder what my life would’ve been like if the Footscray District League hadn’t sent me a letter as a 17 year old when I finished playing junior footy and asked me to consider umpiring?” reflected David.

As a teenager David was a talented all-round sportsman.  He played sub-district cricket, golf and of course footy.  He went down to training in 1987 and ran the boundary for seven years.  He wanted to get into the AFL but was continually overlooked so he changed into goal umpiring in 1994 and the rest his history.  Three years in the VFL, culminating in the 1997 grand final and straight onto the AFL list in 1998.

When David got onto the AFL list he soon realised that running in the middle of the pack would get him nowhere fast.  “I walked into the best group of goal umpires in the history of the game,

Flegg, Gourlay, Clark, Hood, Black, Stirling, Canning, Powell and Davies.  I admired them all and I learned from just watching each of them prepare and umpire.”

“My competitive edge was my fitness so I put it to good use.” David’s times for 4km was better than the field umpires benchmark.  He ran a 14.06 in training and believed he could’ve broken 14 minutes until they shifted the test to 5km.  Not to be denied David has run an 18.30; again better than some field umpires.

David currently holds the record of the most number of AFL finals numbering 29, including 6 grand finals spanning 2000 until 2011.  This simple statistic means a lot to David who says, “it will soon be passed by Luke Walker but to know that I have achieved something like this in elite company is very satisfying.”

David lists his three ANZAC Day games among the most satisfying.  “To be on the ground during the pre-game ceremony is something I will never forget.”

“Preliminary finals are the other games that are the hardest to do.  Players and umpires know what lies ahead if they perform well.  To be involved in a drawn grand final in 2010 was amazing.  Emergency field umpire, Stephen McBurney, came down the wire saying “30 seconds to go.”  I looked up at the scoreboard and saw that the scores were level.  It may sound funny but I hadn’t realised it until then, even though I was charged with keeping the scores.  The game played out until the final siren.”

David believes that being in Melbourne with the strongest competition drove him to continually improve as it does everyone who makes that list.  David notes that his speed and agility are his two best attributes.  He has great admiration for recently retired goal umpire Sydney based, Sergio

Villagra who in David’s own words, “achieved an amazing feat for his entire career with no other AFL support.”

So where will David be an hour prior to game time on Sunday?  Sitting in that chair inside the door of the change room, in the same place he has been for the previous 299 games.  “I am a person of routine, I love to sit and listen and watch as everyone goes about their preparation.  I listen to the fieldies talk about the game, Hayden Kennedy was the best, I learned things each week that I could use in my preparation.”

David has been named as the All Australian goal umpire twice in 2005 and 2009 to add to his impressive resume.

David is candid he believes that his “window of opportunity” is closing as it is opening on some other great umpires in the group.  “I just want to be the best I can possibly be.”

David that is what you have always delivered.  The elusive 300 game milestone is extremely well deserved.

d.dixon

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