‘Surreal’ was the word field umpire Andrew Adair used to describe his maiden AFL match, after taking to the field at the Heritage Bank Stadium where Gold Coast and Sydney Swans battled for their opening Premiership points from Round 1.

Andrew hit the turf for the first AFL officiating duty of his career in front of over 13,600 spectators. He was awarded Heritage Number 455, and was part of the four-field umpires’ matchday panel that included Eleni Tee, Brendan Hosking and Chris Donlon.

Reflecting on the takeaways from the landmark game, and having now joined the long list of umpires who have enjoyed top-flight AFL umpiring honours before him, Andrew noted it was about overcoming the initial nerves and settling down to the intensity of the contest.

He said, “It was pretty surreal. Getting the shirt with the Heritage Number on it before the game was probably the moment that I realised that I had made it.

“Once you pay your first free-kick, pay your first mark, get your first bounce in, get your first stand call out – once you do the firsts, it all comes into place and the nerves go away. Once you get through that first 10- or 15-minute block and you tick all the boxes, it’s all good from there.”

(Left to right) Eleni Tee, Andrew Adair, Brendan Hosking and Chris Donlon during the 2023 AFL Round 01 match between the Gold Coast Suns and the Sydney Swans at Heritage Bank Stadium (Photo by Russell Freeman/AFL Photos)

Drawing from the collective umpiring experiences of Eleni, Brendan and Chris was another advantage on the matchday, Andrew said, “There’s almost 600 games between those three umpires and a good mix of a lot of experience. Their communication and the way that they handled the night was really good. I couldn’t have asked for a better crew.

“Before the game, the message from them was, ‘Go out and do what you’ve done in the past 13 years, which is just umpire football and get back to the basics. Don’t overthink it, because what you’ve done up until now has got you to this point – there’s no need to do anything different’, which is probably the piece of advice I needed going into that game, to simplify everything.”

Andrew first picked up the whistle with the AFL Brisbane Juniors in 2010, and has since forged ahead to build an impressive umpiring resume. Besides 29 AFLW career matches, including the 2018 and 2022 (Season 6) Grand Finals, he took the reins of the 2022 VFL Grand Final, the 2020 QAFL Grand Final, and the 2018 and 2019 NEAFL Grand Finals.

Andrew Adair during the 2022 AFLW (Season 6) Grand Final match between the Adelaide Crows and the Melbourne Demons at Adelaide Oval (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos)

He was named the 2022 VFL Field Umpire of the Year, and the NEAFL Umpire of the Year in 2017, 2018 and 2019 – the two latter years, sharing the recognition with Nic McGinness.

Andrew’s rise through the State League umpiring ranks saw his appointment to the AFL Field Umpires’ Rookie List in 2018, and promotion to the Seniors’ List before the 2023 campaign.

He drew attention to the umpiring journey over the 13 years that has added to his learning curve and said, “They have all been really important in their own way, and it’s a culmination of different experiences that have added up to being able to run out and umpire an AFL match.

“With a [lot] of coaches, [lots] of different learnings – they all add up to being ready to umpire AFL football. So, they’ve all been invaluable.”


Congratulations, Andrew, on your first AFL match. We wish you the very best going ahead.

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