Ask Leigh Fisher what his burning ambition is in umpiring and his reply is as quick and as focused as any umpire on the AFL list “a grand final of course!” Then comes a knowing pause and a statement with as much focus, “but that’s a long way off.”
Leigh knows what finals atmosphere tastes like, he was there amongst it as a player with St. Kilda often enough and whether it’s as a player or now as an umpire he wants to taste it again. Leigh debuted as a small defender in 2003 after being taken at number 46 in the 2002 draft and accumulated 55 games while at St Kilda. Leigh was delisted in 2009 and then redrafted onto St. Kilda’s rookie list in 2010. At the end of that season he knew his time playing was up. He did not want to go back to VFL or community football as he had done that and was looking for a new challenge in an elite environment. Leigh loved running and had a very good knowledge of the laws of football so he took up the challenge offered by the AFL Umpiring Department.
Leigh played at 96 kg which didn’t help his greatest asset, his endurance and running power. He hits the scales at 86 kg now and believes he is better for it.
His first game as an umpire was out the back of Seaford with the assistance of Ray Chamberlain. “Five minutes into the first quarter a player had his head ripped off and I forgot I was the umpire and didn’t pay it.” So I guess Leigh will feel right at home amongst the umps.
“The toughest task for a player coming into umpiring is to get the positioning right. Players and the general public have no appreciation as to how hard it is and how important it is to be in the right position to see a contest,” said Leigh. Leigh believes he has been accepted by his playing mates and they can have an on field laugh together when the moment is right, “At least they understand I have a job to do. Being an ex- player at the level probably gives me a good footy feel but a free kick is still a free kick.”
Leigh has adjusted his lifestyle from being a full-time footballer to part-time umpire by completing an on-line teaching qualification at Monash University and working with Running Fit Coaching who are a Melbourne based fitness company. Outside of footy, Leigh would like to run a New York marathon and is amazed at those who take on the ultimate challenges like the Hawaiian Ironman or the Gobi Desert marathon. “Perhaps I’ll leave those until my days as an umpire are over.”