It soon becomes obvious after chatting with Ben Ryan that there haven’t been many AFL products that come from Capricornia or Central Queensland as we know it. Ben can name three, ex North Melbourne player Gavin Urquhart, current Suns player Zac Smith and himself. That makes him pretty unique.
Ben’s father played footy until he did a knee in South Australia and took up umpiring. When they moved to Rockhampton he continued his umpiring and Ben just followed in his father’s footsteps. Ben worked in Rockhampton for 12 months after finishing school and then took up an offer to head to Brisbane and take up his university studies to become a teacher. He was seen by then AFLQ umpires’ coach Mike Kotiw and Ben joined the pathway to the AFL.
“Umpiring in teams at the start of this season and being put with two great umpires was the best thing that happened to me.” Simon Meredith and Ray Chamberlain saw to it that Ben stood up and his confidence grew. “The round 2 Essendon v. Hawthorn game was unbelievable, I’d never heard so much noise, but I felt like I belonged out there,” reflected Ben. After the Easter Monday game between Hawthorn and Geelong in front of 80,000 people at the MCG Ray said to Ben, “now you’ve umpired AFL footy!”
Ben also believes that the new positioning requirements has been good for his concentration. “It keeps me more engaged in the game because you have to keep umpiring and find an alternative view. You are concentrating so hard on your skills the next free kick becomes easier.”
It hasn’t always been that way and his move to Melbourne in January 2013 looked like it might come unstuck in the middle of the year. “Rowan Sawers said to me one day, we back you. You just have to back yourself. It turned me around and I haven’t looked back since.”
So what was it like in Canberra on the weekend? Whatever it was, I bet it was a long way from Capricornia!