His cheeky smile will disarm you, his layback nature and easy conversation draws you to him instantly. Walk across the white line onto an AFL ground and it’s gloves off, concentration on and a relentless pursuit of excellence that consumes Jonathan Creasey until the final siren blows. Then the switch is flicked and he returns to that mild mannered state.
Champions of our game have one thing in common, they are the quiet one’s off field but they are driven by success and have an innate understanding of how to achieve it.
Jonathan Creasey was an exceptional athlete from a very young age. He represented South Australia as a schoolboy footballer. “My body didn’t grow into a footballer’s body though and by year 8 and 9 I realised footy wasn’t for me,” reflected Jonathan. One of his great delights was to remain friends with some of the boys he played representative football with. “Trent Ormond-Allen , who played football with Melbourne and the Crows was one old friend who I followed into AFL ranks.”
Jonathan was a very talented runner in his late teenage years. “I was a senior state champion in 800 and 1500 metre events but I was also a junior state champion as a 3,000 metre runner and cross country over 8 kilometres.”
Jonathan, prioritised work and so his running pursuits dropped away. “I started working for Telstra and met Terry Barry who umpired in the SANFL. He knew about my running and suggested that I take up umpiring and the rest is history.”
Jonathan, umpired the SANFL reserves grand final in his first year on the list and umpired the senior SANFL grand final in 2000. “Umpiring got me into the best physical shape of my life. I brought my 1500 metre time down to 3min 45 seconds. Come January 2001 and I was offered an AFL contract, my focus changed again.”
Jonathan’s running ability and want to succeed rubbed off on the other umpires he trained with. Darren Wilson had already established himself as a grand final umpire and Mark Thomson was also moving through the ranks. The three of them formed a great bond and together lifted the standards required of boundary umpires. “We were driven by Frank McHugh, he was a good coach, very old school and he told you straight. We were raw and when he spoke we listened. Having said that all of my coaches over many years have had a profound effect on my career.”
Jonathan hasn’t missed a finals series since 2003 and umpired the ’04, ’06, ’08 and ’12 grand finals. Add to that 29 finals including 8 preliminary finals and you find a man driven to succeed. “I suppose I am very competitive when I step over the boundary line. I want to be the best I can be.”
“We drive each other now, it is my boundary colleagues who I draw feedback from. Darren, Mark and I have been All Australian, grand final and finals umpires we are very open and honest with each other about our performances. Rob Haala was a great support to me. Running finals and the ’12 grand final together was very special. We have umpired our milestone games together and have become good friends.”
The South Australian boundary group are tight. “We set the standards on and off the track for others to follow.” So it is that there are a group of SA umpires including, Tee, Thiele and Moore who are now listed in Victoria. Chris Bull and Matty K are now finals umpires as well and remain on the SA list. You can hear the pride in Jonathan’s voice when he talks about the young group who are chomping at his heels for a grand final berth.
“I want to continue to get finals and be the best, but to be honest I am happy with my lot. I have a very good work, life balance and my son Jake is now running and umpiring, he is very talented, even more than I ever was.”
Jonathan enjoyed running in the 3 boundary umpire system because it challenged him physically. “The four umpire system has certainly given us longevity. It is more stop start and then you have to go because of the speed of the game.”
“The game that satisfied me greatly was the ’08 grand final. The team contained four umpires from South Australia, Darren Wilson and myself on the boundary, Steve Axon in the goals and Mark Thomson on the bench as the emergency boundary. What a great team effort that was.”
“My hardest years were the ’04,’08 and ’12 finals series. I had to run for all four weeks in the finals which saw me cooked at the end of the grand final. Unless you actually do it I don’t think anyone understands the pressure and the enormous physical toll it takes on your body.”
Jonathan turns 40 in a week and is still as laid back and philosophical as he was about umpiring 16 years ago. Now he has the runs on the board. Congratulations Jonathan.
Article written by: AFLUA CEO, Peter Howe