AFLUA life member, 300 AFL game boundary umpire and current VFL boundary coach Matt Vitiritti, sat Damien Cusack down at the end of the 2010 season and gave him a few home truths. “He said he thought I’d been at the VFL for too long and needed to work harder on a more consistent basis in order to take the next step,” reflected Damien today on the occasion of his 50th AFL game.
“I took Matt’s advice and trained harder than I ever had in 2011 but fractured my leg in the lead up to finals and missed the remainder of that season. It didn’t stop me from working harder than ever when I recovered and I was appointed to both the 2012 and 2013 VFL grand finals before I got my chance. I spent 12 years on the VFL panel from 2002 until being listed with the AFL in 2014.” In that time Damien had accumulated 138 VFL games, 46 VFL reserve matches and 41 TAC Cup games.
“My first game was in round one 2014 at Etihad Stadium between St. Kilda and Melbourne.” Damien believes the biggest difference between his years on the VFL and where he currently stands is, confidence in his ability to put together consistent repeat performances. “I use the senior guys as mentors, in particular Ian Burrows. Ian and I started together in the VFL at the same time, he has over two hundred games and 5 grand finals to his name and I have 50 games. He has really spurred me on to work harder on my game.”
This season has started very well for Damien. “It feels like things are beginning to click, some of the boys have said to me that it isn’t until you are in your third year that things start to fall into place and I feel that is happening to me at the moment!”
Damien says that the best match he has had to date was this year’s ANZAC Day clash. “The ceremony and national anthems were played out in complete silence, then to have 90,000 people roar really got the emotions running. Here I was deep in concentration, thinking about the enormous sacrifices many people had made for us and then next thing you know you are lifted off the ground. The noise was deafening. I felt I could’ve run through a brick wall!
Damien’s aim for 2016 is simple. “Be the best I can be in each game I am appointed to this year and hope that is good enough to get me into finals contention.”
Now wouldn’t that be something for a very good bloke!