Boundary umpire John Morris has stood the test of time. A Benjamin Button type – the older he gets the younger he looks and more importantly on the football field, the better he performs.
The Melbourne based boundary umpires and their coaches sat down to dinner with him last night to mark the occasion in a Carlton restaurant. You could feel the pride among the group who had come to celebrate this remarkable career. John becomes only the 9th boundary umpire in the history of the game to reach this milestone.
John in his understated style was proud of his milestone but embarrassed by the fuss being made of it. Even at the game, Hawthorn v Geelong on Saturday night he was a little self-conscious about the occasion. He was able to hand pick his crew and was disappointed long-time friend and 300 plus game boundary umpire, Mark Thomson was injured and unable to take his place on the ground alongside John.
“I just went out and enjoyed the game, that was the great part of it,” reflected John. “It was a very special night with great mates and especially my son in the rooms with me, yeah, it was nice.”
John was probably more distracted because his son Jackson was heading to the USA very early the next morning to take up a college golf scholarship in Missouri for the next four years.
John’s umpiring career has flourished in partnership with his current job as Manager Enterprise PMO with AusNet Services. Since he first joined the list in 1993, his football journey has complimented his corporate career but never defined who he is. While he has lived and umpired in many states of Australia that journey has been driven by his career and not his football.
Once rated as not good enough by a former coach, John has defied the critics and indeed his coaches. The past few years of his career has seen him selected in three preliminary finals and push for selection on that one day in September or October, the only prize in football that has eluded him. Some of his boundary umpiring colleagues could call him dad however, they have far too much respect for him.
If you watch John on-field you would see the metronomic action of his throw ins making them look effortless, he glides across the ground and is always in position – an obvious use of years of experience, the only hint of his ageing years is the tinge of grey hair now protruding in his tightly cropped hair.
His mates know what makes John tick. The presentations came thick and fast. “We took a collection and even asked the goal and field umpires to participate, such was the importance of the milestone,” beamed the presenter. “So we could even get the gift engraved. Secondly we know that you are a wine connoisseur, so we spared no expense.” Only the hint of a mischievous smile gave away what was coming. The plastic ball point pen duly inscribed and the cask of dry red wine was handed to John with joyous laughter from his mates. John was really chuffed that the pen had really been inscribed and kept picking it up shaking his head and joining in the joy of the night.
“John when can I interview you to celebrate your sensational milestone I enquired at the end of the night?” In a reserved and humble tone John replied, “You don’t need to do that everyone knows my story, what if you just write 300 – tick. I’m just really happy to be part of a great group of guys participating in one of the great games in the world.”