I caught up with David Harris this afternoon as he was wrapping up his day for the Geelong umpires where he works as their administrator and while he was waiting for another bush umpire, Shaun Ryan to pick him up for their trip to Melbourne to train.
Both boys hailed from Warrnambool where the footy was tough in the renowned Hampden football league, both left their home town in pursuit of their dreams of umpiring AFL football. Shaun’s career is more than 10 years in the making, David clocked up his 50th game last week when Adelaide played the Gold Coast.
“The decision to come to Melbourne was easy for me because I moved in with my older sister who was living in Melbourne, but I was coming anyway to chase my dream.” David’s first attempt in 2004 had to be aborted when he was seriously injured in a training mishap and was on crutches for 14 weeks after fracturing his hip. “I was lucky in many respects. I decided to stay at home for another three years, complete my painting apprenticeship, work on the things that needed to be improved with my umpiring and I met Sarah.” During those three years David umpired inter-league fixtures, Hampden league grand finals and became a much better umpire. “It really was a blessing in disguise. I came back to trial with the VFL in 2007. It is a tough time for anyone who leaves home chasing a dream, it is some months before you know whether you make it or not and I certainly wasn’t going to stay in Melbourne if I missed out,” said David very matter of fact. “I didn’t like the whole idea of a long distance relationship either.”
David made the VFL development panel in 2007 and two years later was put onto the senior VFL panel. David’s athletic ability no doubt was one of his features that drew him to the attention of the selectors. He got into good early position and displayed his composure and good decision-making ability. David umpired the 2009 TAC Cup grand final and then the 2011 and 2012 senior VFL grand finals following his unusual entry onto the AFL list late in the same year.
David also umpired the 2012 state game between the VFL and Tasmania.
So where to next David? “I am starting to feel comfortable and confident in the AFL match-day environment. Like all umpires on the list I want to continue to improve and obviously push for finals.”
Any last minute advice to give young kids from the country? “That’s easy, follow your dreams. I even look back now and wonder to myself, how did I do that.”