I am sure Simon Leigh has been called many things but a telemarketer isn’t probably one of them. Damien Main was at work one Monday afternoon when he received a call from an unknown number so decided to let it go to voicemail. No doubt, Simon had just hung up when Damien was calling him back.
Simon, as the AFL Boundary Coach, explained to Damien that with so many long term injuries, he was being elevated to the AFL Boundary List for the remainder of the 2017 season and would be umpiring the Carlton v Melbourne game that weekend. Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for the newest boundary umpire debutant.
Damien umpired for five years with the Eastern Football League from 2008 to 2012 before being appointed to the VFL in 2013, where he continued umpiring until his recent phone call from Simon. Damien’s sporting career has not always been umpiring, he participated in Little Athletics for 5 years, cricket with the Warranwood Sharks for 10 years, played footy with the North Ringwood Football Club for 8 years, Surf Life Saving for 7 years and lots of mixed netball/basketball along the way.
Damien admits it’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for him, but that everyone has been really welcoming and supportive. His greatest highlight has been to run on the MCG and Etihad Stadium. Feedback has been positive so far but Damien is keen to improve his overall game performance.
His first game at the MCG was, as he described it, “a ripping contest where Melbourne got up by 8 points.’’ He umpires alongside Matt Tomkins, Damien Cusack and Dillon Tee and says the roar of the crowd was something he’d never experienced before and not likely something he’ll forget. He says the boys were really supportive of him on game day and that he managed to stay out of trouble, only having 6 throw ins for the game, which allowed him to soak up the atmosphere even more. In addition to the crowd noise, Damien noticed how quickly both teams moved the ball and the difference in skill level between the VFL and AFL.
Damien admits there’s not much difference between the AFL and AFLV, you train twice a week which involves coaching and running sessions. He says the AFL has gym facilities which he is able to utilize before and after running sessions to help with strength and conditioning and to put his purchases of Musashi products to good use. He enjoys pizza post-game as well.
2017 has been a tough year off the field for Damien after the passing of his dad. He says his passion for umpiring has helped him get through this and that he’s really motivated to do well in his honour. He says his mum and dad have been the most influential people on his career to date having driven him to games before he turned 18 and then giving him post match debriefs on their way home. They continued to support him, once he got his license, by attending his games, unless they were at Casey and the wind was blowing sideways. He also cites Matthew Vitiritti as someone who supported him and always felt he could make it to the next level.
His advice for up and coming umpires is to always seek feedback and take it on board. He says the best way is to listen to your coach’s advice and use this to constantly improve your on-field performance. “I go into every game with a match plan written up of what my focus areas are. This helps me to get switched on and ready for each game.” He adds, “And the most important thing is to have fun.”
Damien’s dream as a kid was to play footy on the MCG so he got pretty close to living his dream as an umpire. He says it was great to have a support crew at the MCG for his first game which included immediate and extended family, some high school and working mates who heckled him from the fence between his six throw ins for the day.
Well done Damien on your induction to umpiring AFL football and we wish you all the best for continued success this year and in years to come.
Article written by: AFLUA Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Peter Kelly