Ask any of the six field, eight boundary and four goal umpires who were axed from the finals campaign yesterday how tough selection is at this time of the season and they would all be happy to sit down with you and explain the cut throat nature of finals performances.
It was only a week earlier when they were elated that their year of toil was rewarded with a final in week one. Andrew Mitchell had his first taste of finals in his 52nd AFL match, a great achievement. Chris Kamolins had to deal with the agony of being selected to sit on the bench in week one for the third time in three years. Ray Chamberlain was back after two years of injury, Justin Schmitt after a one year hiatus was back in favour also. Simon Meredith has had a remarkable comeback following his illness in round 12.
Twelve time grand final boundary umpire, Darren Wilson made it back into the finals panel for the first time in two years, which again proves that age shall not weary him. It is a truly remarkable achievement. So too that of fellow South Australian Matt Konetschka who umpired his first final after 50 AFL matches.
Brett Rogers, West Australian goal umpire, made his finals debut at the MCG. He has never umpired outside WA so he was extremely excited yet nervous about the expected 80 000 crowd last Saturday night.
So to this week where games go from four to two and the umpiring lists are culled by 50%. Focused and accurate performances on the back of a competitive and consistent season is all that will see the panel through the next two weeks.
Justin Schmitt, Dean Margetts and Troy Pannell are joined by finals specialists and previous grand final umpires, Matt Stevic, Simon Meredith and Mat Nicholls as the final six. Brett Rosebury, six time grand final umpire is sitting as an emergency only.
Three of last years grand final boundary umpires are gone with only Nathan Doig remaining in the final eight. Matt Konetschka, Chris Roberts and Matt Tomkins join the other grand final veterans, Jon Creasey, Mark Thomson, Chris Gordon and Ian Burrows.
In the goals it is now a race in four to the grand final. Grand final umpires, Luke Walker, Adam Wojcik and Chelsea Roffey are joined by the only “uncapped” goal umpire Chris Appleton.
Of the 102 AFL listed umpires who started the season way back in round one, we are down to 18 remaining and in two weeks 9 umpires will walk onto the MCG on grand final day. I wonder who it will be?