Two hundred and fifty AFL games is a terrific milestone and joining the ranks is goal umpire Chris Appleton who reached this milestone when umpiring the Essendon v Adelaide game at Etihad Stadium on 23 March 2018.
Looking back, Chris reflected on the differences in AFL games since his first game back in 2002. “Back when l started we had monsters such as Fraser Gehrig, Anthony or Sav Rocca starting in the goal square and not straying too far from there. Now we spend large portions of the game standing on our own with 36 players up the other end of the ground.”
Chris’s highlight was doing his first AFL grand final after 12 years on the list. He recalls the emotion involved and his mum’s reaction when he told her the news.
Around any barbecue, Chris says the most common issue discussed about goal umpiring is the score review system. “People are genuinely curious as to what triggers us to review and if we see our role being redundant in the future.” When asked if he thinks goal umpires will one day be made redundant, Chris is adamant, “Of course l don’t!”
The thing that Chris most likes about umpiring is the opportunities it presents to meet people, visit places or do things l might not have ever done had l never taken up umpiring.
Like any goal umpire, Chris has made some tough decisions during his career. The toughest moment in Chris’s career was when he was knocked over by Josh Gibson and missing a tight on-liner with 90 seconds to go in a close preliminary final. Chris thought his dreams had gone up in smoke but luckily, he was deemed not at fault and went on to get that elusive grand final he’d always dreamt of.
Chris’s career has included some challenging times too. In May 2010, Chris was suspended for the remainder of the season after placing four bets totalling $60 on the 2009 Geelong v St Kilda grand final, a game he did not officiate in. He has since bounced back and gained the respect and trust of the umpiring department and has been a leader amongst the goal umpire fraternity for a number of years. Whilst he understands the mistake he made, he admits one of his funniest moments in football was at the start of his first game back after suspension, when whilst putting his flags away he was asked by a member of the Melbourne Cheer Squad, “So who are you backing today Apples?”
Chris acknowledges he couldn’t have done what he’s done without a supportive family backing him week in week out. “It can be tough at times,” he admits, “I have a wife that never complains about me being away and two boys that are proud of what Dad does at their current age.” Asked if either son was looking to replace him, he admitted there is at least one, although he is trying to teach him how to bounce.
Well done Chris on a fantastic milestone. We hope there are many more to come!
Article written by: AFLUA Marketing and Communications Coordinator, Peter Kelly