Field umpire Nick Foot was very happy as a youngster playing footy with his mates at North Hobart while his father coached opposition team Glenorchy. Nick was 14 years old, he played with mates on Saturday and umpired with mates on Sunday.
“I umpired senior Southern Football League seniors in 2004 and trialled for the VFL as an umpire in ’06, ’07 and ’08 but I was never fit enough. Kevin Mitchell (the state manager of umpiring in the VFL) agreed to put me onto the VFL list in 2009 but Tasmania cut its ties with the VFL and started it’s own state league competition. Shaun Gleeson came to Melbourne and I stayed in Tasmania to umpire in the state league with my mates. I wasn’t interested in the AFL,” explained Nick today.
“Had I moved to Melbourne then I’m not sure if I would’ve succeed,” reflected Nick. “I umpired the state league grand final in ’09, ’10 and ’11, the year I was rookied by the AFL.
Nick’s second sliding door moment occurred in that pre-season in 2011, when he broke his toe playing cricket. “Rowan Sawers (AFL umpires coach) said that if I couldn’t pass my preseason fitness test then I couldn’t do NAB cup games and be listed as an AFL umpire. I rehabbed like no man had done before, passed my benchmark fitness test and became a rookie.”
The third moment that had a significant impact on Nick was the realisation he could become an AFL umpire. He travelled with the AIS team to Italy, London and Gallipoli. He got to rub shoulders with a number of recently retired AFL stars who never said much but led by example. “I went for a run with Matthew Lloyd one day, he was still an elite runner despite having retired some years earlier. Those things had a huge impact on me. The most moving moment of the trip was to be at Gallipoli on ANZAC day. I was warm and comfortable, I was safe but it took you back to what our diggers faced on that day. The cold wet trenches, the life and death moments they faced, it was a surreal experience,” reflected Nick.
Nick made the AFL list in 2012 and umpired his first season from Tasmania. “I feared those coaching teleconferences because I didn’t want to make a mistake or be seen to not know my stuff, I am a lot more relaxed now in coaching sessions knowing what to expect once I moved to Melbourne and got to know all the guys better.”
Nick has settled in very well. Some may argue too comfortably. His physical prowess on the track was noticeable from day one, “I controlled what I could control and that was my fitness. Brett Rosebury was moved to say to me one day, Nick, grand finals are not umpired in October, so I take a more seasoned approach now but I still run in the front group,” laughed Nick as he headed out of the cafe door and off to training.
Pictured: 50th gamer – AFL Field Umpire, Nick Foot