Ask anyone and they will say that there is no bigger roar than the start of a preliminary final in front of a packed house. The footy purists clearly say that it solely because it is the last bastion of club supporters, who flock to the game in their tens of thousands because at the grand final there are less members of the two competing clubs who can get a ticket.
The umpires running around this weekend would agree. Of the twenty-two remaining umpires sixteen have been in a preliminary final before so this will not be new to them. For the remaining six it will be ground breaking.
Scott Jeffery (307 games) is one of the six never to make it to a preliminary final. However, you would think that his experience will hold him in good stead. Scott isn’t someone to be easily ruffled in big games. The only other field umpire not to have experienced a preliminary final before is emergency umpire Luke Farmer (185 games)
Our boundary umpires also have two who are walking onto the ground not having experienced a preliminary final crowd. Damien Cusack, has now gone through to the third week of finals in his first year of making the finals panel, which is a sensational achievement. Saturday will be Damien’s 65th AFL game. The other to have his first preliminary final is Chris Bull. Tonight will be Chris’ 121st game. Chris umpired his first final in 2015.
Steve Williams walks onto the Sydney Showgrounds tomorrow afternoon in his 140th AFL appearance and his first preliminary final. Brodie Kenny-Bell (34 games) sits at the MCG tonight for his first taste in a prelim also.
So it comes down to each umpire’s performance this weekend. Only 11 umpires will be selected for next weekend’s grand final. Congratulations and good luck.