Cameron Ward umpired just four AFL games in his first two seasons as a listed boundary umpire. To say that forged a level of determination and commitment is an understatement. What it also created was a man with patience and a very good life balance.
A hip flexor tear that was initially diagnosed as a 2 to 4 week injury during his first AFL pre-season in 2005 developed into a chronic and season-ending injury when “Cam” struggled to overcome the initial setback. An injury free run in 2006 then saw him compete with Aaron Deckys, Dan O’Donnell and Mark Hill for a spot on the boundary, remembering in those years we went from two to three boundary umpires and only more recently four.
“I definitely listened more than I spoke in those first few years, and learned a lot from those more experienced guys that I was able to incorporate into my games,” reflected Cam today.
So when Cam went from his first game in 2006 to back-to-back preliminary finals in 2008 and ’09 he had certainly learned his lessons well. “I’m probably my harshest critic. I set my own standards and certainly strive very hard to meet them.”
Cam said, “In my initial years, there’s no doubt that football was my first, second and third priority, but that changed back in 2012 when I decided to step away from it all and travel overseas for two years. It was a huge decision for me at the time and one that caused a lot of sleepless nights, but having that time away really reinforced just how much I loved my football.” It also gave Cam a new perspective on his life and sport. While he still rates his umpiring highly he now values his life experiences equally.
Cam didn’t expect to get back onto the list when he returned to Australia in 2014 but circumstances fell his way and he took the opportunity afforded him. “The way my career started I didn’t think I would ever reach 100 games, and then I assumed the opportunity had passed me by when I packed up and moved overseas. So to finally reach the milestone is really pleasing.”
Cam rates fellow boundary umpire Aaron Deckys as the person who has mentored and supported him as a colleague. Cam believes Aaron’s consistency and body management is something everyone could learn from.
So what drives you now Cam? “Like everyone else on the list, my ultimate goal is a grand final,” he replied candidly.
Well done Cam. Yours is a milestone built on perseverance.