At the end of 2009, Chris’ coaches sat him down for a chat about his career. He had just umpired his third SANFL senior grand final on the back of an under 17 and two SANFL reserve grade grand finals. He was not expecting the outcome, “We see you as a solid SANFL umpire but not one destined for the AFL.” While his dream from the age of 13 was to umpire AFL footy, he loved umpiring and footy, so like many others who have been given that news, he walked away still wanting to umpire and be the best he could be.
Chris turned up to the North Eastern umpiring zone in Nth Adelaide at the age of 13 wanting to be a field umpire. “They had enough field umpires that year so they asked if I would run the boundary? I said yep and discovered I could run and enjoyed it so much I never changed over to the field. Unless you count my intra club game two weeks ago when the field umpire didn’t turn up at Adelaide and I umpired 2 X 25 minute halves. It was 1980’s style umpiring, a lot of play on calls and not a lot of technical decisions!”
A fourth SANFL grand final and some positive feedback from Mark Thomson and Jonathon Creasey saw Chris elevated to the AFL panel in 2011. He hasn’t looked back since. “On reflection in my first couple of years I think I over thought my games and didn’t enjoy them. The last couple of years, I know I have put in the hard work so now I enjoy them. My best skill is umpiring. By that I mean I am not a gifted runner but I am an umpire before being a runner, I love umpiring and footy and that has been my best attribute.”
Chris thinks that there was nothing better than his first game in 2011. “It was the Crows v Hawthorn, it marked the 20th anniversary of the crows being in the AFL. It was a game I’ll never forget because it was one I was never going to get.”
Chris puts Whip, (Darren Wilson) Thomo, (Mark Thomson) and Crease (Jonathan Creasey) as the greatest influences on his career. “They have been the go to boys, I have often turned to them for advice, they are great guys.”
So how do you balance your role as a police officer and umpiring footy? “It’s a challenge as a shift worker, I need to ensure I have good communication with both of my employers to keep them both happy. It is about being as prepared as I can possibly be, I could come off a night shift and have to go out and umpire an AFL game just hours later.”
So what’s next Chris? Not wanting to put himself under pressure he replies, “Gee everyone umpires for a GF, another final would be good too. You know, a game next week is all I’m looking forward too.”