When first gamer Robert Whitehead walked onto the ground at Metricon Stadium last Saturday evening he allowed himself a look back up into the crowd to see his sister. It was she after all that introduced him to AFL football and goal umpiring. They even umpired community footy together in Queensland. They are each other’s biggest fans.
“We lived and breathed NRL in our household and in our community I never knew anything about AFL until my sister took me along to a game when I was 16. She played AFL at high school and was good enough to be selected to play in a regional tournament. Amanda also goal umpired. I watched her play and umpire and liked the role of a goal umpire. I spoke to the AFL umpire’s recruiter at the carnival, Andrew Cross and the rest as they say……..is history,” reflected Rob as he was driving to work today.
One hundred and twenty games of AFLQ and NEAFL senior footy later, Rob made his debut a little later than planned in round 14 but his police-work had to take precedence. Rob is in his first year of his police career and is stationed at Ipswich about an hour out of Brisbane. “I have found my perfect career after being unsure following my university studies where I majored in science. It just wasn’t me.”
Rob was drawn to AFL and his first club, the Ferny Grove Falcons because of its great sense of family and community that the NRL clubs in his area never had. “I love the guys I umpire with as well because of their diverse backgrounds and life experiences. They are all extremely committed guys. It was Kayne Nund who helped foster my interest in a career in the police force.
Fellow umpire, Tristan Symes presented Rob with his heritage certificate on Sunday at an AFLUA luncheon. Tristan let slip that Rob was so nervous he was at the game two and a half hours before the start time. So Rob how did you go? “My coach, Nick Abbate was very positive after the game. I have a few positional things to work on and I am looking forward to my next match.”