Tristan was always destined to play or umpire AFL football. His father’s heritage had a lot to do with that. “My father was from Ballarat in Victoria. My earliest memories were of him taking us to Carrara. He was the merchandise manager for the Brisbane Bears in their early days. I grew up loving footy and wanting to play,” reflected Tristan when we caught up with him today.
Tristan then reluctantly admitted he wasn’t good enough to pull on the bears guernsey so umpiring it was. Murray Bird, former AFLQ umpires manager was a family friend and he saw to it that Tristan was well schooled in the art of goal umpiring from the tender age of 14.
“I went down to training and learned my skills. It wasn’t until after I finished school in 2000 that I broke into senior football but I had over 60 games of footy under my belt. I enjoyed the early days umpiring with some greats of Queensland football in Neil O’Brien, Glen Dryburgh and Katrina Morris”
Tristan was appointed to the AFLQ senior grand final in 2006 and was appointed to the AFL panel in ’07. “It was tough to get a game then. There were four AFL goal umpires on the list and only 11 games a season with just the Lions in town. I umpired four AFL games in my first season.”
Tristan developed his skills quickly with the support of a strong peer group and coach Gary Kane. “Brent Fewkes, Troy Mavroudis and Chelsea Roffey supported me in those early seasons on the list and while I didn’t get many games I learnt and developed my skills. When Shaun came on the list in `09, he Troy and I became quite a close knit supportive group” A second QAFL grand final in ’07 precipitated a very good 2010 where Tristan sat on the bench in a final, finishing top 12 on the panel. He was then rewarded with the NAB Cup grand final in 2011.
So what set you apart from the other youngsters coming through the ranks? “As well as the support from our experienced umpires it was my drive and passion for AFL that I thought set me apart,” said Tristan.
Tristan has found the toughest part of his role over the past few years is getting to know his new colleagues. “We are part of a team of 27 but in the previous few years with no camp we could only get to know each other over the phone. It was great to be part of the camp this year so we got to meet our new colleagues.”
Tristan agrees it is tough umpiring in a non-traditional state and he wouldn’t have survived without the support of his wife Candi, an avid AFL supporter and their two children, Hamish and Caitlin. So how was your 100th game on Saturday? “It was a good feeling to come off and know that I umpired well. That makes it all worthwhile.”